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SMOKELESS DOESN’T MEAN HARMLESS

February 12th, 2015

From the desk of Dr. Fass

If you don’t know that cigarettes kill, then you’ve been out of touch with the news for the last 30 years. But what you may not know can kill you also, that is that chewing tobacco (also called spit tobacco or snuff) is just as deadly. In fact, long term users of these products are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonusers and three-quarters of mouth and throat cancers are thought to be caused by tobacco and alcohol use.

The results of oral cancer are not pretty. Surviving with missing tongues or other facial structures is difficult and only one half of those diagnosed will live five years or more. About 8,000 die each year. Increasingly, the use of smokeless is in younger age groups and is currently highest in men age 17-19.
Renowned sportscaster Joe Garagiola, who has seen dozens of friends suffer and die from cancer of the jaw and mouth is the chair of the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP). He was recently quoted saying, “We’ve got a silent epidemic going and the only way to stop it is to get the facts out.” At recent major league training camps, NSTEP conducted oral exams. In this study, 70% of the players used smokeless tobacco and of the users, 65% had one or more lesions in their mouths.
The implication is simple; If you haven’t started, DON’T. If you use smokeless products, consult your physician or dentist for information on how to quit. And don’t forget your regular dental exams. A regular oral cancer screening as part of a routine dental examination can detect early problems and result in higher cure rates.
And the jury is still out on the newer electronic cigarettes. They are very efficient nicotine delivery systems and can have the same effects on the mouth as regular cigarettes. Nicotine causes blood vessels to contract, shutting down blood supply to gums and oral tissue which may lead to advancing gum disease.

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