Smokeless tobacco is deadly for the heart, too.

September 2, 2009 by  

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heart-with-bandageThe use of smokeless tobacco products is on the rise. This has probably something to do with the widespread implementation of anti-smoking bans in many countries of the world. Thus, the age old practice of using products such as snuff and chew or spit tobacco, used to be thought as “unhip” and “gross” has recently been revived. Of course the very hip goes for e-cigarette, an electronic nicotine-containing smokeless cigarette.

It is a common misconception that it is the smoke that  makes cigarette smoking unhealthy. Without the smoke, chewing tobacco or using snuff are supposedly harmless. However, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that smokeless tobacco products can be just as deadly. They have already been linked to several types of cancer, including pancreartic and esophageal cancer.

A recent meta-analysis by Swedish researchers shows that the use of chewing tobacco and snuff also significantly increase the risk for suffering and dying from a heart attack or a stroke.

In all in all, the researchers looked at eight studies from Sweden, where the use of snus (wet snuff)  is quite common and three studies from the US. Except for 2 studies, all participants of the other studies never smoked tobacco. Here some of the results of the study:

  • It is estimated that in 2000 alone, 0.5% of deaths from heart attack and 1.7% of deaths from stroke in American men were due to the use of smokeless-tobacco.
  • Among Swedish men, 5.6% of deaths from heart attack and 5.4% of deaths from stroke were due to smokeless-tobacco use.

According to author Dr Kurt Straif, researcher at International Agency for Research on Cancer

“Given the recent increase in use of smokeless tobacco, it is important to stress that all forms of tobacco are harmful and that the best prevention is not to start using any kind of tobacco, or-for users-to stop using all kinds of tobacco.”

The researchers think it is important that the public should be aware of the health risks of smokeless tobacco products. Several baseball players in the US are known to chew and spit tobacco during games, thus, setting a bad example to audience as well as TV viewers.

In addition, medical professionals tend to overlook smokeless tobacco products when taking medical history, assessing risks, and diagnosing symptoms.

American Heart Association spokesperson Dr Nieca Goldberg comments:

“Cardiologists [and other physicians] need to remember to ask patients not only about cigarettes but also about smokeless tobacco.”

Unfortunately, the meta-analysis did not elaborate on the substances responsible for the cardiovascular problems.  In view of the current controversy (and popularity) of e-cigs, it is of utmost importance whether the health risks in smokeless tobacco are also true for e-cigs.

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