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More Harm Found from Smokeless Tobacco

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Tobacco Researcher Irina Stepanov

Contrary to some notions, chewing tobacco and using snuff is more harmful than previously known. Avoidance of inhaling tobacco smoke is no better than smoking cigarettes has been further explored by researchers. The findings that smokeless tobacco is more harmful than previously believed were presented August 16 at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Irina Stepanov, Ph.D., who led the research team, warns that smokeless tobacco is just not safe. In addition to two dozen other carcinogens that cause oral and pancreatic cancers, smokeless tobacco also exposes users to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

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Dr. Stepanov says, “Our finding places snuff on the same list of major sources of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as smoking cigarettes." PAH’s contaminants also present in the environment that lead to respiratory and heart disease. PAH is the result of incomplete burning of wood, coal, fat, and is released when meats are grilled.

One of the reasons smokeless tobacco exposes individuals to harm from PAH is because of the way it is processed. "Even though smokeless tobacco use does not involve burning, moist snuff is getting contaminated with PAH during its manufacturing," according to Stepanov. PAH contamination is thought to come from the curing process need to turn tobacco into snuff, called 'fire-curing'. The tobacco comes into direct contact with smoldering wood that release PAH’s.

Since the 1980’s, smokeless tobacco use has doubled. The additional harm found from smokeless tobacco products expands what has been previously known about other harm that comes from chewing tobacco and snuff. The current study suggests that smokeless tobacco becomes even more harmful because of the processing involved in turning tobacco into a smokeless produce.

Source: ACS