Health Watch: Check for early signs of health problems from tobacco use |

Health Watch: Check for early signs of health problems from tobacco use

Did you know about 18 percent of men in Moffat County use chew tobacco?

The tobacco industry markets chew/snuff products as “smokeless tobacco”, as though a smokeless product may be a safe alternative to cigarettes or other smoking forms, but in fact, it is as addictive as cocaine or heroine. If a person holds an average-size dip in their mouth for 30 minutes, they will receive as much nicotine as smoking two to three cigarettes.

In addition to their addictive quality, chew/snuff products contain 28 chemicals known to cause cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, stomach, and pancreas. These cancers can form within five years of regular use. Some of the known chemicals include embalming fluids such as formaldehyde; rat poisons such as arsenic; irritants such as hydrazine, cadmium, cyanide and lead.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Tobacco Prevention Program, with the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, are promoting the Through With Chew Week, an educational campaign to decrease spit tobacco and increase awareness of the negative health effects of using this product.

Established in 1989 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. – the 2008 Through With Chew Week is Feb. 17 to 23, including the Great American Spitout on Thursday, Feb. 21.

Spit tobacco users should check monthly damage to teeth, gums, the tongue and surrounding tissue which may indicate early warning signs of cancer. As deadly as mouth cancer is, your chances of surviving are much better when found early.

Tips to check for signs of health problems:

At a minimum, on a monthly basis, conduct an oral screening using a mirror and good lighting. Consider the following:

Face and neck:

Look in the mirror. Do both sides of your face and neck look the same? Gently press your jawbone to feel for lumps.

Check lips and gums:

Pull down your lower lip. Are there white or red patches or sores that bleed easily? Are there any signs of irritation, like tenderness, burning or a sore that will not heal? Look very carefully at where you place your tobacco. Do you see color changes or rough areas?

Squeeze your lip and cheek between your fingers. Are there any bumps or soreness?

Roof of the mouth:

Tilt your head back and open wide. Do you see any discoloration, sores, bumps or swelling?

Floor of the mouth:

Put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. With one finger, press around the floor of your mouth. Do you feel sores, bumps or swelling?


Stick your tongue out. Grab it with a clean piece of cloth or paper towel. Move your tongue from side to side. Do you see any color changes or bumps?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, see a doctor or dentist right away. Be sure to tell your health care provider that you use spit tobacco.

If you see any discolored skin, feel any bumps or soreness, or have a sore in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks, this may be an early sign of cancer.

If you perform a self-examination and are concerned, please call the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition at 824-8000.

If you’re ready to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or log on to to receive free coaching and 4 weeks of nicotine patches or gum.

Call the VNA at 871-7664 for further assistance.

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