Nicotine (Tobacco chewing)

Changing trends

An increasing awareness of the ill effects of smoking, has led people to contemplate whether chewing of tobacco is a safer alternative. Chewing tobacco is as bad or probably a lot worse. While in developed nations, use of cigarettes, cigars and pipes is more rampant; tobacco chewing forms a large component of nicotine addiction in developing countries. In India, the Nicotina tabacum plant grows freely in many parts of the country. Several people grow it in their home gardens, and its use is thus not surprisingly extremely common.

Faces of the culprit

Oral tobacco utilization occurs in multiple forms: seemingly impossible but it’s application on the teeth for cleansing (masheri) is common in rural settings. Chewing the raw leaves of the plant offers an instant high (tambakhoo). Chewing the dried tobacco leaves along with lime (chuna) is another frequent practice. Flavored dried tobacco (gutkha) or consumption along with betel leaf and areca nut (paan) are also rather common methods of use. In developed countries snuff (dried shredded tobacco) is placed in the mouth or inhaled (dipping). Snus (originated in Sweden) is a smokeless spitless tobacco stuck between the lip and gum. Plugs of tobacco are designed to be placed in the mouth and subsequently spitted.

How it performs its act

Oral use of of tobacco has effects distinctive from smoking; but consequences of nicotine occur on the brain nonetheless. A half an hour chew of 5 grams of tobacco gives the brain as much nicotine as 4 cigarettes. It would take 60 cigarettes to equal a standard can of tobacco. Some people feel the need to keep the tobacco in the mouth even while sleeping, in order to keep the nicotine rush going, as well as because they are used to an irritant in their mouth.

Deadly culprit

Tobacco delivers more than 28 carcinogens in the mouth 
during chewing or using it as snuff. Besides an irreverent appearance; physical impacts on the chewer are countless. Mouth, throat and pharyngeal cancers are only the beginning. Oral cancers include those of the lips, mouth, gums, cheeks and tongue. Those of the throat impact the vocal cords while several distant pharyngeal cancers eat the upper end of the food and windpipes. Frequently these cancers develop as unsightly tumors that need surgically resection, and eventually leave the smokeless tobacco user with some very severe facial disfigurements.

There’s still more

Tobacco chewing discolors the teeth (permanent staining), leads to cavities, thickens the gums, gives the chewer a continual foul breath, gum disease, seems rude and offensive; and of course causes hypertension, thereby elevating the chances of heart attacks. Tobacco use can be explicated as a deliberate attempt of chronic suicide; unintentional but definitive.

MINDFRAMES: Taming the monster

A continual behavior modification and cognitive therapy program clubbed with medications can help tackle the difficult problem of nicotine dependence among tobacco chewers. We offer individual behavior therapy, group workshops as well as corporate programs to help individuals quit the addiction to tobacco. Customized medications can also be prescribed. Substance dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with drugs. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do act soon.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no smoke in oral tobacco so why is it dangerous?
At least 28 chemicals in smokeless tobacco are known to cause cancer. Tobacco-specific nitrosamines top the list of harmful chemicals. These are in fact produced during the growing, curing, fermenting, and aging of tobacco. Their level of course is different in different products. Greater nitrosamines = Greater cancer risk. Other cancer-causing substances include polonium–210 (found in tobacco fertilizer) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PCAH).

Frequently Asked Questions

Is nicotine responsible for cancer?
Nicotine has a high addictive potential owing to its impact on the brain. It is not a carcinogen by itself as such. The cancer is caused due to the additives that are present in the fertilizer during growth of the plant Nicotina tabacum or during aging or preparation of tobacco in different forms for consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

In India are there some ‘gutkha’ preparations, which are nicotine free. So these would be safe?
All ‘gutkha’ preparations usually do contain tobacco. Nicotine free ‘gutkha’ would not give a rush or a high, thus would not be addictive and people would not repeatedly consume it. Hence it is imprudent to believe in these claim without any reliable chemical analysis of the product. It is wise to not believe that these preparations are nicotine free and hence cancer free without appropriate evidence.