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Smokeless is not better
A U.S. Air Force Airman places simulated smokeless tobacco in his mouth at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 22, 2011. Using smokeless tobacco can result in fatal oral cancers and tooth loss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hayden K. Hyatt)
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Smokeless is not better

Posted 8/23/2011   Updated 8/23/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Airman 1st Class Ashley Lennon
1st Special Operations Dental Squadron

8/23/2011 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "Ewww...what is that in your water bottle?"

"Oh, just a little dip... at least it's better than smoking a cigarette."

Wrong! Many people believe that chewing tobacco, or dipping, is a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. But it isn't. According to the U.S. Military's "Quit Tobacco--Make Everyone Proud" website, smokeless tobacco actually contains more nicotine than cigarettes.

Chewing tobacco is an old habit that people learned before anyone knew the negative effects that came with it. Smokeless tobacco, first used by native people of North and South America, became popular in the U.S. by baseball players. It kept their mouths moist while replacing gum and helped with their pitching by making their gloves softer.

By 1950, the use of smokeless tobacco decreased just as the use of cigarettes increased. However, as more people realized that smoking was bad, many went back to chewing tobacco thinking it was a safe alternative.

Today, it's not just athletes that chew. Many girls and boys have also picked up this bad habit. The side effects of chewing tobacco, like gum recession, tooth discoloration and bad breath, are all severe and ought to discourage people from using it.

If you use chewing tobacco, lookout for these early signs of oral cancer:
  • A sore throat that doesn't heal
  • A lump or white patch
  • Having difficulty with chewing
  • Restricted movement of the tongue or jaws
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your throat
Pain is rarely an early symptom. If you're a user, you need to make sure that you have regular dental checkups. The above risks are only the beginning of the trouble with chewing tobacco and more life-threatening effects such as cancer. All forms of smokeless tobacco have high concentrations of cancer-causing agents.

According to an article on, reports show that 90 percent of lung cancer cases are from people who either smoke or chew tobacco. Destructive carcinogens in tobacco injure the cells in the lungs. Over a period of time, these spoiled cells may develop into lung cancer.

All in all, smokeless tobacco is not better than smoking cigarettes. We no longer have the excuse of being ignorant to its negative effects like earlier Americans. I hope that you will understand that smokeless tobacco is more dangerous than perceived.

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