Smokeless Tobacco Not a Safe Smoking Alternative
> 8/29/2007 10:15:01 AM

Couple the negative PR that has swirled around cigarettes over the last decade with restrictions that have made smoking in many locations illegal, and what you get is a recipe for savvy marketing to exploit consumers' ignorance to push other tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco, which comes in a number of varieties, is the most popular of these smoke-free options, and while many consider it a "safer" alternative to smoking, new research shows that smokeless tobacco products may in fact be more dangerous than their inhaled siblings.

In a study that appeared in the August edition of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, a team led by Dr. Stephen Hecht of the University of Minnesota studied the physiological implications of using the two different tobacco products. The team monitored the levels of several known carcinogens in a cohort of 420 smokers and 182 smokeless tobacco users who had agreed to participate in a study to reduce their nicotine dependence. Their results show that in every case, smokeless tobacco users had higher levels of carcinogens in their system when compared to cigarette smokers.

As quoted by Reuters, Dr. Hecht pointed to these results as evidence for why smokeless tobacco should never be seen as an option for smokers looking to quit:

"Smokeless tobacco products have been proposed by some as safer alternatives to cigarettes, but they are not safe," lead study author Dr. Stephen S. Hecht said in a statement.

"The only likely safe alternative to smoking is the long-term use of nicotine replacement therapy as a means to reduce dependence," he added.

The idea that smokeless tobacco is a viable and even beneficial avenue to help curb smoking has been propagated for years, often by doctors and researchers in the field. Unfortunately, this new research shows that many of the harmful carcinogens that smokers have tried to avoid by chewing tobacco are just as prevalent or more concentrated in the smokeless varieties. Meanwhile, nicotine in virtually all varieties of smokeless tobacco is as high or higher than in cigarettes, meaning the actual addiction will not change.

Chances are, that not unlike cigarettes, increased information about the negative effects of smokeless tobacco will not drastically alter users' behaviors, but Dr. Hecht's work should ensure that in the future, those who considering using smokeless tobacco products think twice about their implications. Cancer remains an incredible risk for anyone who uses smokeless tobacco products. If you or someone you know is interested in quitting smoking or chewing, contact your doctor or therapist to learn about other treatment options.

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