ODA isn't buying the hype

Sept. 7, 2001
The Ohio Dental Association isn't buying into the advertising hype that appears to be surrounding a new product to be launched in October.

The Ohio Dental Association, which strongly advocates against the use of smokeless tobacco products for their harmful effects -- particularly the strong link to oral cancer -- isn't buying into the advertising hype that appears to be surrounding a new product to be launched in October. Youngstown, Ohio is one of only two cities in the country where this product will initially be marketed for six months.

Dr. James Ellashek, a Youngstown area dentist, said it's not good that yet another smokeless tobacco product will be introduced on the market. He's not happy it will be in his community. "I think it's terrible. It's just another marketing tool that compromises the health of the American population. Smokeless tobacco products offer a consistent, increased risk of oral cancer, in addition to periodontal disease."

Smokeless tobacco in any form is dangerous to health, states Cleveland-area dentist Dr. Bruce Grbach, chairman of the ODA's council on communication and public service, which oversees Operation TACTIC (Teens Against Chewing Tobacco in the Community). Operation TACTIC is an anti-use and awareness program offered to elementary through high-school students.

Dr. Grbach questions the use of the Revel product as an alternative to smoking, citing that nicotine in any form is harmful. "There are a number of studies that demonstrate that smokeless tobacco is dangerous and can cause oral cancer. This new product is a form of smokeless tobacco and consumers should know that using this product exposes them to risks of oral cancer."

The product, Revel, will be introduced only in Youngstown, Ohio and Topeka, Kan. by the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. The product is touted as one smokers can use "anytime and anywhere," ostensibly developed to use when smoking a cigarette is not possible. Revel is described as a form of smokeless tobacco that does not induce the need to expectorate, with no unpleasant tobacco flavor, and that it is "a blend of premium tobaccos and fresh mint flavor in clean and neat, discreet, easy-to-use packs." Users -- presumably women as well as men, will need to spit the wet packet out of the mouth when finished.

Pretty words don't make the product any less potentially harmful, states Nancy Goorey, DDS, of Columbus. Goorey, who has been active for years in programs that promote non-use of smokeless tobacco and is current chair of the ODA's Sports Dentistry Consultants, stated that while the Revel product is said by the maker to be designed for adults, it is clearly intended for new users as well. Furthermore, it is not the taste, she stressed, but the nicotine, that is the draw. "Addicted individuals are not concerned with taste, but rather with results. The flavored brands of smokeless or spit tobacco are used to initiate new users, making the taste palatable while addicting the individual with nicotine -- and putting them at risk for cancer because of the carcinogens."

In addition to nicotine, smokeless tobacco products often contain ingredients such as cadmium (used in car batteries), formaldehyde (for embalming), benzopyrene (cancer-causing agent) and other chemicals. Furthermore, these moist tobacco products have been reported in a 1999 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as "a major public health problem in the U.S." The report also said "the use of smokeless tobacco can cause oral cancer and oral leukoplakia (precancerous oral lesions), and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and nicotine addiction." This study also stated that there is a substantial variance in the amount of nicotine-dosing capabilities from product to product, with higher levels meaning a higher potential for nicotine addiction -- and absorbtion into the blood.

Other daunting statistics pertinent to use of smokeless tobacco include:

Tobacco-related diseases cost Ohio's economy $3.4 billion annually.

Each Ohio household pays $350 in state and federal taxes for tobacco-caused health costs. (Coalition for a Healthier Ohio)

About 30,100 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2001, with 7,800 people dying of these cancers. (American Cancer Society)

In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that using smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes or cigars.

ACS reports that the risk for oral cancer is higher among those who use snuff and smokeless tobacco products compared to those who do not.

ACS also reports that the risk of cancer of the cheek and gum may increase 50 times among long-term users of smokeless tobacco products.

The USDA reports that production in the U.S. of moist snuff was substantially higher in the last decade -- up to an estimated 63 million pounds in 1999 compared to 43 million pounds in 1989.

Leukoplakia, a disease characterized by white patches and oral lesions on the cheeks, gums or tongue, is present in 60 to 78 percent of smokeless tobacco users. More than half show symptoms within three years of starting tobacco use. (National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids)

2.8 percent of Ohio middle school students and 5.5 percent of high school students reported using smokeless tobacco on school property in the previous 30 days. (2000 Ohio Youth Tobacco Survey, Ohio Department of Health)

Chewing tobacco contains 28 carcinogens, including tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Other cancer-causing substances include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, crotonaldeyde, hydrazine, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, benzopyrene and polonium (which gives off radiation.) (National Cancer Institute)

Smokeless tobacco users absorb two to three times the amount of addictive nicotine as those who smoke cigarettes. (National Cancer Institute)

Smokeless tobacco users increase their risk of cancers of the oral cavity, throat, larynx and esophagus.

For additional information, contact the ODA's department of communication and public service at (614) 486-2700 or visit www.oda.org.