TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Feb. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Tobacco Free Florida is encouraging Floridians to learn the facts about the harmful effects of using smokeless tobacco and to make a plan to stop using these products. To help raise awareness, the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida is observing Through With Chew Week from February 16-22. Compared to the decrease in youth cigarette use, there has not been a significant change in the use of smokeless tobacco products among youth. In 2013, 5 percent of Florida high school students reported current use of smokeless tobacco products 1 compared to 5.1 percent a decade ago. 2 Smokeless tobacco includes products such as chew, spit, dip, snuff and snus. These products are commonly used by placing the product between the teeth and gum. The chemicals in smokeless tobacco are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. "Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking as some youth may believe," said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. "In fact, some of these products may contain a higher concentration of nicotine than the average cigarette." 3 There are many dangers associated with the use of smokeless tobacco. Some of the harmful effects include:
Cancers of the mouth, tongue, cheek, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, pharynx and larynx
Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Leukoplakia (oral lesions on the cheeks gums, and/or tongue)
Users of smokeless tobacco have an 80 percent higher risk of oral cancer and a 60 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer and of pancreatic cancer compared to non-users. 4 The use of smokeless tobacco also causes gum disease (gingivitis), which can lead to bone and tooth loss. 5 Studies show adolescent boys who use smokeless tobacco have a higher risk of becoming cigarette smokers. 6 Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive and dangerous chemical. Adolescents' bodies are more sensitive to nicotine, and adolescents are more easily addicted than adults. 7 Furthermore, most tobacco users start by the age of 18. 8 These young people rarely consider the long-term health consequences associated with tobacco use when they start and many continue using tobacco well into adulthood, often with serious and even deadly consequences. 9 Tobacco Free Florida works to educate and inform citizens that smokeless tobacco products are not effective ways to quit smoking. Currently, there is no scientific or medical evidence that can prove the use of smokeless tobacco is an effective way for a person to quit smoking.