Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chewing Tobacco: History, Specifics, and Health Effects

Chewing Tobacco History

Chewing tobacco is one of the oldest forms of tobacco usage in America. Native Americans began the method of taking tobacco leaves and either chewing them or holding it between the teeth and the cheek. While this is the most primitive way to use tobacco, when early colonists came to America, they quickly adopted the method and began to refine the manufacturing processes. The colonist also knew how valuable tobacco was and for a short time, was used as a currency in the colonies. The early Americans began to process the tobacco by drying it out in large drying barns and adding a smoky element by lighting smoldering fires made from Oak or Hickory for flavoring.

Once the tobacco leaves were properly dried and smoked, they added a bit of water and a sweetener to enhance the flavors then either left it whole or, cut the leaves into thin strips and chewed. This type of chewing tobacco is known as “Loose Leaf chew” or “Chaw” depending on where you are in the south. In the early 1800’s, local farmers would make chewing tobacco for their own use or, traded it to their neighbors. Towards the end of the 19th century, many of these small manufacturers grew into large companies like Helm and R.J. Reynolds which made the southern states a mecca for Chewing Tobacco. In fact, R.J. Reynolds, in the early 1900’s, had 84 different chewing tobacco brands in its portfolio.

Chewing tobacco became so popular in the 1800’s and 1900’s that it was even more popular than cigars and smoking tobacco until the 1930’s. During that time, spittoons were as commonplace then as ashtrays are now! In fact, there were even spittoons in federal buildings including the floors of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. There are still spittoons in the Senate although they are not used. As the popularity of smoking and cigarettes increased, the spittoon became an antique and a relic of the saloons of the Old West.

For much of the 20th century, chewing tobacco began to be associated with being independent, mature, ‘macho man’, etc. it became culturally associated with baseball and other sports. Youngsters who looked at the sportsmen as their role models started imitating them and smokeless tobacco became very popular among the younger generation.

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The germ theory was proved at the end of the 19th century bringing public outcry against unsanitary practices of spitting in which disease could be spread.  Spitting tobacco became socially unacceptable and unlawful, especially in public places.

In the 1970’s spit tobacco began to slowly shift from a product primarily used by older men to one used predominantly by young men and boys.  From 1970 to 1991, the regular use of moist snuff by 18-24 year old males increased almost ten-fold from less than one percent to 6.2%.  Conversely, use among males 65 and older decreased by almost half, from 4 to 2.2 percent.

Why Do People Use Chewing Tobacco?

The reason is plain and simple and it is Nicotine. Well, plain but not so simple really. Back in old days, people really didn’t understand Nicotine like we do today. What they knew about tobacco was what they either learned from the Native Americans or, learned by trying it. What they knew was that by chewing the leaves from the tobacco plant, a calming feeling came over the user that was pleasant. The Nicotine rush you get with chewing tobacco is much different than the one you get from cigarettes. As you all know, cigarettes give a quick burst of Nicotine that lasts as long as the cigarette does which is about 10 minutes. Chewing tobacco, on the other hand, has a gradual kick that begins about 5 minutes after you begin chewing the leaves and lasts for as long as the flavor lasts which can be up to an hour depending on the brand. As you can see, chewing tobacco had its advantages over smoking tobacco. It was quicker and lasted longer.

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Why Chewing Tobacco is Better than Cigarettes Smoking?

If you are a tobacco addict, and you do not want, or simply cannot abandon the bad habit altogether, switching from cigarettes smoking to tobacco chewing may benefit smokers in three main ways. First, smokeless tobacco use is considered by professionals as being 98 percent safer than cigarette smoking. Thus, it can save the lives of smokers and of those persons who breathe second-hand smoke. Second, smokeless tobacco effectively provides the nicotine kick smokers crave. That is why one third of smokeless users in the U.S. today are former smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Third — and this may be surprising to most readers — modern smokeless tobacco products can be used invisibly, much like a breath mint, in any social situation. This is important because old-fashioned "chewing" or "spitting" tobacco is outdated and irrelevant to this discussion. These facts are the foundation of a simple and practical harm reduction strategy for inveterate smokers: switch to smokeless tobacco.

Contrary to a popular misperception, all forms of tobacco are not equally risky. Smokeless tobacco causes neither lung cancer nor other diseases of the lung, and users have no excess risk for heart attacks. However, the biggest danger of smokeless tobacco use - oral cancer – still exists. In 1981, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Deborah Winn and colleagues established that smokeless tobacco users are four times more likely to develop oral cancer than are nonusers of tobacco. However, this relative risk is only about one half the relative risk of oral cancer from smoking.

Health Risks

It is possible, that the chewing tobacco is safer than smoking it, but no way that can be considered as safe alternative of tobacco consumption overall. Chewing tobacco leads to possible numerous side effects, which can be internal or external. The main harmful effects of tobacco are:
  1. Erodes Tooth: The ingredients of tobacco consist of gravels, sand, and other harmful chemicals that erode the enamel of tooth. Continuous chewing leads to early loss of tooth.
  2. Early Decay of Tooth: Chewing leaves small particles in tooth that forms bacteria and plaque, it harms enamel and gums, which leads to decay of tooth.

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  1. Gum slump: Chewing leads to decomposing of gums, the gums get infected and the grip on tooth loosens which exposes the sensitive area of tooth.
  2. Bad Breadth: There is nothing as bad as bad breadth of a person; they are major turn off for people around them. The long-term habit of chewing and spitting in many occasions may look unacceptable and indecent.
  3. Affects Eating Habit: Eating habit of people who chews tobacco tends to be unhealthy, continuous chewing affects the taste bud and the sensitivity of them decreases. This leads to an increase in intake of more salt, sugar and spices in food as he feels a bland taste in his mouth.
  4. Damage to tongue, jaw and lips: Chewing leads to the early decay of tooth, bad breadth, damaged gums and falling of tooth. The addiction of tobacco affects the area around the mouth. The tongue and jaws face the following problems:
·         Discoloring of lips and lip cancer
·         Sore Throat
·         Difficulty in movement of jaws and tongue
·         Rashes or irritation on tongue
·         Burning sensation on lips and tongue
  1. Oral Cancer: Continuous chewing process leaves infectious juices on tooth and lips. These develop in white patches that can be considered as an early symptom of oral cancer. People who indulge in tobacco chewing have higher risk of oral cancer to people who take alcohol. The most infected area in oral cancer is the tongue and the area below the tongue. The cancer slowly spreads to cheeks and throat. Though it can attack any part lips, tongue, upper and lower mouth, the cheeks, or gums and esophagus. Smokeless tobacco contains at least three known carcinogenic agents: N-nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polonium 210. Users who swallow chewing tobacco especially increase their risk of esophageal damage and stomach ulcers.

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Sources and Additional Information:

1 comment:

  1. The complexity of tobacco smoke leads to some confusion about the mechanisms by which it causes lung cancer. Among the multiple components of tobacco smoke, 20 carcinogens convincingly cause lung tumors in laboratory animals or humans and are, therefore, likely to be involved in lung cancer induction.

    cancer caused by smoking


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