Chewers and Dippers: It’s the third week in February, which means it’s time for you to be badgered by the annual Through with Chew public relations campaign. Across the nation, tobacco prohibitionists are publishing unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about smokeless tobacco. Here are recent examples from Fallon County, Montana and Boone County, Iowa, followed by the facts
Claim 1: “chew products deliver a higher dose of nicotine than cigarettes, making the product more habit forming.”
The Facts: The amount of nicotine that smokeless tobacco “delivers” is irrelevant, because chewers and dippers use products in ways that satisfy them. In fact, there is evidence from one of the world’s foremost authorities on nicotine addiction that smokeless tobacco is less habit-forming than cigarettes (here and here). Most Americans are badly misinformed about the absence of significant health effects of nicotine (here).
Claim 2: “Smokeless ‘Spit’ tobacco contains over 2,000 chemicals.”
The Facts: Every natural product, including coffee contains thousands of chemicals (here). A product’s chemical composition is unimportant if it carries little or no risk. Like coffee, smokeless tobacco fits in that category.
Claim 3: “Chew contains at least 28 chemicals that have been found to cause cancer…”
The Facts: Almost everything we eat contains cancer-causing chemicals, but they are in trace levels that present no risk. Again, coffee is a prime example (here). Numerous scientific studies prove that there are vanishingly small levels of carcinogens in modern smokeless tobacco products (here, here, here, here, here).
Claim 4: “Harmful effects of smokeless tobacco include mouth, tongue, esophageal, and throat cancer…stomach and pancreatic cancer”
The Facts: According to dozens of published epidemiologic studies (reviewed here), the risks for these cancers are not elevated.
Claim 5: “Harmful effects of smokeless tobacco include increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.”
The Facts: Among the many risk factors for heart disease and stroke, smoking is one of the biggest. That is not the case with smokeless tobacco. When the American Heart Association conducted an extensive investigation of smokeless tobacco and heart disease, it found almost nothing (here). Large studies from Sweden show that snus users do not have risk for heart attacks (here) and strokes (here), and snus use may even offer benefits for heart attack survival (here).
Claim 6: “Harmful effects of smokeless tobacco include leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can become cancer).”
The Facts: White patches are common in chewers and dippers, but they are nearly always benign. The link with mouth cancer is virtually zero (here).
Claim 7: “Harmful effects of smokeless tobacco include receding gums, bone loss around the roots of the teeth, abrasion (wearing down) of teeth.”
The Facts: There is virtually no scientific evidence that smokeless tobacco is a risk factor for any dental problem (here, here). In fact, one study shows that snus and moist snuff (dip tobacco) might be protective against cavities (here).
Don’t be fooled by bogus smokeless tobacco health claims.