Think Before You Chew

Think Before You Chew

Chewing tobacco is a life-altering decision. Most of the time people start on chewing tobacco casually without knowing how it can change their life.

Chewing tobacco is highly addictive because each chew has three times the nicotine content of a cigarette. So, one can of chewing tobacco is almost equivalent to 50 cigarettes. Chewing tobacco in any form is not a safe alternative to smoking.

Did you know that chewing tobacco has at least 25 cancer causing agents, such as arsenic, formaldehyde and nuclear agents such as polonium?

Nearly one out of every two to three people who chew tobacco could get oral cancer. Statistics show if you do get oral cancer the survival rate in five years is only 60 percent, according to the American Dental Association.

We will all die eventually, but oral cancer kills in a way that is horrible. If you are unfortunate enough to get oral cancer from chewing tobacco, you will have to have a mutilating surgery that, in essence, removes most of your jaw. You will most likely have to have most of, if not all, your teeth pulled for radiation. Additionally, you will possibly have a tracheostomy (hole in your neck) to help you breathe and a hole in your belly to help you eat and, even then, your likelihood of surviving is only 50 percent!

Chewing tobacco also causes dental disease and gum disease and wears off the teeth at the gums causing unsightly cavities that are difficult to fill. Nicotine in chewing tobacco will cause high blood pressure and heart disease. Chewing tobacco can also cause cancers of your stomach, pancreas and esophagus.

You may not be aware that there is very high sugar content in chewing tobacco, which not only causes cavities in your teeth but can affect blood sugars in diabetics.

So, before you put that wad of chewing tobacco or snuff in your mouth next time, think about this life-altering decision you are about to make. Don’t gamble with your life.


Raj K. Khanna, DMD, MD

Dr. Khanna is a board-certified oral & maxillofacial surgeon and professor and chair of the department of dentistry, oral & maxillofacial surgery at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.