Kick the chew­ing to­bacco habit

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL -

Edi­tor’s note: this col­umn pro­vided by Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter is meant for in­for­ma­tional pur­poses only.

If you want to avoid the harm­ful ef­fects of to­bacco, that doesn’t just mean giv­ing up smok­ing, although that is a good start. Tak­ing another step could add even more health ben­e­fits: get­ting rid of dip and chew­ing to­bacco.

An as­sess­ment of health needs in the com­mu­nity de­ter­mined that Polk County has the high­est rate of oral cancer in a six-county re­gion that also in­cludes Floyd, Gor­don, Chat­tooga, Bar­tow and Chero­kee County, Alabama. Much of that can be at­trib­uted to the use of smoke­less to­bacco. While dip­ping or chew­ing means nei­ther you nor your neigh­bor are in­hal­ing smoke, that doesn’t mean it is healthy.

Imag­ine smok­ing 30 to 40 cig­a­rettes a day. That’s nearly two packs of cig­a­rettes. But here’s what you might not know. Some­one who chews or dips 8 to 10 times a day, ab­sorbs the same amount of nico­tine as that heavy smoker. And nico­tine might not be the worst thing you are get­ting from chew­ing to­bacco. The Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol re­ports that no less than twenty-eight known car­cino­gens are found in smoke­less to­bacco.

Smoke­less to­bacco also con­tains chem­i­cal com­pounds known as to­bacco-spe­cific ni­trosamines, or TSNAs. These are the most harm­ful chem­i­cals in smoke­less to­bacco, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute. TSNAs are formed dur­ing the grow­ing, cur­ing, fer­ment­ing, and ag­ing of to­bacco. The amount of these sub­stances in smoke­less to­bacco can be very high.

There are other nasty chem­i­cals in smoke­less to­bacco, in­clud­ing ar­senic, lead and cyanide. Like cig­a­rettes, smoke­less to­bacco can cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pres­sure and cancer of the lip, tongue, cheek, throat, stom­ach and esoph­a­gus.

Side ef­fects from chew­ing or dip­ping in­clude crack­ing and bleed­ing lips and gums, pre­can­cer­ous mouth sores, tooth abra­sion, gum re­ces­sion, gum and tooth disease, loss of teeth and bone in the jaw and chronic bad breath. Get­ting that kiss from some­one spe­cial might also be a ca­su­alty of the bad habit.

There are steps you can take to quit: Think about nico­tine re­place­ment prod­ucts like nico­tine gum or a patch. Try us­ing sub­sti­tutes like sug­ar­less gum, hard candy, beef jerky, sun­flower seeds, shred­ded co­conut, raisins, or dried fruit.

Make a list of all the rea­sons you want to quit. Keep it with you and look at it of­ten.

Get in­volved in health­ier ac­tiv­i­ties like lift­ing weights, shoot­ing bas­kets or swim­ming.

To truly live well means more than just eat­ing nu­tri­tious food and hit­ting the gym or walk­ing track. It also means putting an end to un­healthy habits that may seem un­beat­able, but the re­ward is well worth the sac­ri­fice. Just be­cause a habit is hard to break does not mean it can­not be done. Your doc­tor can al­ways get you started and help you put to­bacco down for good.

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