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Smokeless Doesn’t Mean Harmless: A Closer Look at Smokeless Tobacco

Spit tobacco, chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, chaw. They’re all harmless-sounding names, yet no matter what you call smokeless tobacco, it’s every bit as unhealthy as cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco contains 28 chemicals known to cause cancers of the mouth, throat, and pancreas. Like hookah, vapes, and e-cigarettes, the dangers of smokeless tobacco are often minimized in popular culture, but the destructive effects of smokeless tobacco can’t be denied.

Smokeless tobacco is also highly addictive. It contains three times the nicotine found in cigarettes. Holding an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes gives you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. A two-can-a-week dipper gets as much nicotine as a pack-a-day smoker.

Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

In addition to numerous types of cancer, smokeless tobacco also causes:

  • Gum recession and disease
  • Tooth loss and decay
  • Reduced sperm counts
  • Abnormal sperm cells
  • Leukoplakia – a rough, white patch in the soft tissues of the mouth that often leads to cancer

Smokeless Tobacco and Sports

Smokeless tobacco has become ingrained in American sports culture. While only about 3.5% of U.S. adults use smokeless tobacco, usage among high school athletes is alarmingly high. In 2013, 14.7% of male high school athletes dipped or chewed – and in Oklahoma, the numbers are even more concerning. Currently, 17.3% of all male high school students in Oklahoma use some form of smokeless tobacco. Many see it as a way to be “one of the guys.” Once nicotine addiction sets in, it can be difficult to figure out how to quit dipping.

Smokeless tobacco is a highly addictive substance that causes serious health problems. Creating tobacco free spaces for Oklahoma’s youth is key to reducing and preventing its use among highly impressionable teens.

Progress in Professional Sports

Recognizing the importance of adult role modeling in shaping teen behaviors, New York, California, Boston and Chicago have enacted measures to make professional sports venues 100% tobacco free. The ban includes smokeless tobacco use by players and fans alike.

Earlier this year, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio signed legislation prohibiting the use of all tobacco products at all city sporting events. In response, Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, commented, “We welcome this historic action because our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product. With the mayor’s signature, New York sends the right message to millions of young fans that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture.”

How to Quit Dipping

Every Oklahoman has access to free resources that can make quitting easier. If you’re thinking about quitting or just curious to learn more, these steps may help:

  • Call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKhelpline.com.
  • Receive free resources and materials to help you quit. Depending upon your needs, eligibility and preferences, these may include:
  • A FREE starter kit with at least a two-week supply of patches, gum and lozenges
  • Coaching calls
  • Web coaching
  • Supportive text messages
  • Helpful emails
  • A Quit Guide and other materials

To learn more about how you can prevent youth tobacco use, click here.

For free tools to help Oklahomans quit smokeless tobacco, click here.