Smokeless tobacco is killing more and more people

Not so long ago smoking was considered to be cool. In movies both villains and high level spies were smoking cigarettes for that bad boy look. However, in reality it is much less cool than you care to admit. And you don’t even have to smoke to suffer from negative health effects from tobacco. A new study from the University of York revealed that the number of deaths globally due to smokeless tobacco has gone up by a third in 7 years.

Nasvai – moist, powdered tobacco snuff, popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and some other countries. Image credit: Goryncheg via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Smokeless tobacco is exactly what you think it is – tobacco products that you don’t smoke. For example, chewing tobacco. This kind is particularly worrying to scientists, because COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that it is better to keep your mouth covered in public. Scientists are worried because people who use smokeless tobacco spit a lot. You’ve seen it in movies – cowboys spit all the time when they are chewing tobacco. This is obviously not good during the times of a global pandemic.

However, the problem of smokeless tobacco is timeless – it is not tied to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists estimate that in 2017 alone smokeless tobacco resulted in more than 90,000 deaths from cancer and more than 258,000 deaths from heart disease. Furthermore, millions of people shortened their life by chewing tobacco, even if they didn’t immediately see the ill health effects of this harmful habit. Scientists included data from 127 countries in this study and analysed the 2017 Global Burden of Disease Study and several surveys for information.

Dr Kamran Siddiqi, one of the authors of the study, said: “We have an international policy in the form of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, to regulate the supply and demand of tobacco products. We need to apply this framework to smokeless tobacco with the same rigor as it is applied to cigarettes”. Smokeless tobacco is particularly popular in South and South-East Asia countries, such as India (which accounts for 70 % of all smokeless tobacco consumption), Pakistan (7 %) and Bangladesh (5%). However, smokeless tobacco is gaining popularity in Europe and the United States. One of the problems is that people are lacking information about potential harms of this habit. Hopefully, this trend is not going to continue getting worse in the coming years.

Chewing tobacco causes cancer, heart disease, teeth and gums problems. It also causes bad breath, excessive salivation, loss of senses of smell and taste. It’s just not worth it. And it doesn’t make you look cool. However, it is incredibly addictive and, at least in some parts of the world, relatively cheap. Governments have to take action and start considering smokeless tobacco equal to cigarettes.


Source: University of York

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