Smokeless Tobacco: Different Types And Possible Health Effects


Smokeless tobacco comes in different forms like chewing tobacco, spit tobacco, pinch, snuff and dip. In India, people addicted to gutka, a chewable variety of tobacco, often say that it acts as a stimulant, and has relaxation effects. But did you know that gutka is poison? Though sold as a mouth freshener in India, the lethal stuff consists of 4,000 chemicals, out of which, 40 are carcinogenic elements, according to medical professionals. So, if you think that chewing, sucking or sniffing tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes, think again. Smokeless or chewing tobacco can lead to a number of health problems. And, this where the importance of a tobacco control program comes into play. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of smokeless tobacco and their possible health effects.

Different Kinds of Smokeless TobaccoPeople are used to consuming tobacco in different forms. Here are some of the most common ones:

Smokeless Tobacco

Chewing Tobacco: As far as oral, chewing or spit tobacco is concerned, they come as loose plugs, leaves or dried tobacco which is flavored. The stuff is generally chewed or kept between the gum and cheek or teeth. The nicotine present in the lethal stuff gets absorbed through the tissues of the mouth. An addict either swallows or spits out the saliva, which turns brown in color as it gets soaked in the tobacco.

Dissolvable Tobacco: These products are available in the form of pellets, lozenges, toothpick-sized sticks, orbs and strips. They are chewed, held in the mouth or sucked till they melt in the mouth. Though flavored, dissolvable tobacco products contain both tobacco and nicotine.

Dipping or Snuff Tobacco: Snuff or dipping tobacco is generally sold in various parts of India. They come in pouches or cans. The stuff may be sold as moist or dry with additional flavors. Moist snuff is placed between the cheek and the gum or the lower lip. Dry snuff is available in powder form. It is inhaled or sniffed through the nose. Both dry and moist tobacco is hazardous for your health. According to a recent study, India tops as far as the number of tobacco deaths are concerned. The study also says that South East Asia accounts for 85 percent of smokeless tobacco consumption, while India alone accounts for 74 percent of the global burden.

Health Risks Associated with Smokeless Tobacco

If you think smokeless tobacco such as gutka, snuff or khaini is safe, you’re far from the truth. Neither  one is a safe alternatives to cigarettes. Here are some of the health problems linked to smokeless tobacco:

Cancer: Tobacco addicts who chew or dip the lethal stuff in their mouth consume the same amount of nicotine as cigarette smokers. Chewing or dip tobacco also has 30 of the toxic chemicals that cause cancer. The most hazardous cancer-causing compounds found in chewing tobacco include nitrosamines (TSNAs). The TSNA content may vary based on the tobacco products you’re using, but higher the amount, the more are you vulnerable to cancer. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth, cheek, gums and tongue. It may also lead to pancreatic cancer if one is swallowing the stuff which goes straight into the stomach.

Lung Disease and Tuberculosis: Chewing tobacco makes your lungs like a sponge that absorbs at least 30 carcinogens. The tar-like elements present in tobacco discolors your lungs, leading to lung ailments and tuberculosis.

Lack of proper knowledge and awareness is a stumbling block in the path of weaning tobacco-users away from the products. Only properly channelized messages coupled with effective tobacco control programs can help more and more people quit tobacco in both its smoke and smokeless forms. After all, the  harmful effects of tobacco abuse are too serious to ignore.

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