Smokeless Tobacco Use Rising, Does Not Help with Cessation

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Nov 5 2010 - 10:30am

Either as a result of smoking bans or in an effort to quit smoking cigarettes, many are turning to smokeless tobacco products. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that while the rate of smoking has remained constant since 2008, the number of smokeless tobacco users is rising, particularly among men, young adults and in some states such as North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.

Tobacco use is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death and costs more than $96 billion each year in health care costs.

In its “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” the CDC finds that about 20% of Americans still smoke cigarettes. The study is based on a telephone survey last year of more than 430,000 people in all 50 states. About 23% of males smoke, compared to 18.3% of females. Smoking prevalence is highest in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.

"No Tobacco Product is Safe to Consume"

Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, points out that cigarette taxes in the 10 states with the highest smoking rates is significantly lower than that in the 11 states with the lowest rates ($0.62 average versus $2.19). He also notes that the states with the highest smoking rates are less likely to have smoke-free laws in public areas such as restaurants and bars.

Read: Smoking Bans Could Save Lives and Cigarette Tax Lowers NY Smoking Rates

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Smokeless tobacco, which includes chewing tobacco, snuff, and tobacco “orbs” and Camel “Snus”, are often used in an effort to quit smoking, but US health officials state that smokers who use substitute tobacco products may actually be less likely to quit. Smokeless products still contain nicotine, which keeps the habit alive, says Terry Pechacek of the CDC.

Smokeless tobacco use is most common in young adults (aged 18 to 24) and in those with lower education levels. States with the highest number of smokeless tobacco users include Minnesota, Virginia, Utah, Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Among the states with the lowest number of users are Delaware, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.

Read: More Harm Found in Smokeless Tobacco

The CDC is encouraging patients to quit smoking because benefits start immediately. “We see lower rates for heart attacks within months of quitting,” said Pechacek. “And lower rates for lung cancer, too. Stopping a decline in lung function is one of the biggest benefits of quitting smoking.”

Risks of smokeless tobacco include oral and pancreatic cancers and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

"No tobacco product is safe to consume," said the American Heart Association's chief executive, Nancy Brown.

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