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Chew on this, kids: cancer & spit-tobacco link is real

Staff Report -   Feb 22, 2007

With spring sports now under way, some teenagers and adults who participate will reach for “their chew” - digging into their pockets for tobacco they can pack into their cheeks while playing on the field.

But if you think “spit tobacco” won't hurt you, chew on this. According to Mayo Clinic experts, one pinch held between your cheek puts the same amount of nicotine in your body as smoking three cigarettes.

Your body also absorbs several toxic chemicals including arsenic and formaldehyde.

Spit tobacco - also known as chew, snuff or dip - causes cancer. The risk of developing oral cancer for long-term spit tobacco users is as much as 50 times higher than for non-users. "Spit tobacco is dangerous," says Richard D. Hurt, M.D. director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "It can be more addictive and harder to quit than smoking cigarettes."

It's illegal for people under 18 to use spit tobacco, but the majority of users are under 18. Peer pressure is the main reason why boys and young men start using spit tobacco.

Contrary to popular belief, Major League Baseball players aren't the only ones who use spit tobacco regularly. Those in public service positions, such as police officers, firefighters, mall and airport workers and others, have resorted to spit tobacco because they can't smoke on the job. provides information on tactics tobacco companies use that may influence children and encourage new users, including advertising and fruit-flavored chews. The award-winning Web site also provides steps to help people kick the spit tobacco habit. At search for the words "spit tobacco."

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