Good reasons to eschew the chewy baccy

2 minute read

Smokeless tobacco products can still fire up cancers, dentists warn.

The toilers at TMR are not unaccustomed to receiving media releases which seemingly have little, if any, relevance to the content we routinely publish.

This week’s entrant in our “WTF?” file was from the Australian Dental Association, who were piggybacking on World No Tobacco Day to warn of the under-recognised health risks of folks using chewing tobacco products.

Questions abounded. Is chewing tobacco even legal in Australia? And who, if anyone, is making like an old-timey cowboy and hawking up nicotine-stained gobbets of goop into nearby spittoons?

Google searches ensued and it turns out that in Australia small amounts of chewing tobacco can be legally imported for personal use but cannot be commercially sold. What’s more, according to the fang-wranglers’ release, the product is “commonly used in … central Australian communities”.

But does anyone actually know of anyone who has ever used these products?

Again, imagine our surprise when one of our very own staff members (we shall protect her identity) confessed to having once chowed down on a hunk of said baccy, and vowed it was an experience not to be repeated. The effects were reportedly dramatic and included a technicolour yawn into a nearby receptacle not specifically designed for this purpose.

If that wasn’t discouraging enough, the dentists detailed some of the even more dire consequences of this foul practice, including short-term side effects such as bad breath, gum disease, staining of the teeth and inner surfaces of the mouth, mouth ulcers, pain and tooth loss.

Regular use has also been shown to reduce the sense of taste and smell and increase “the risk of pre-term birth and still birth”.

But the biggest long-term bad outcome is, unsurprisingly, cancer.

All chewing tobacco and pastes contained toxins, carcinogens and nicotine, which were “particularly hazardous for the mouth as they are held between the cheek, gums and lips and cause many abnormal changes to the tissue within the mouth”, ADA oral health promotor, Dr Janani Ravichandran, said in the media release.

The dentists went on to suggest Aussies needed to be better informed about these risks and that that government campaigns and QUIT programs should be broadened to include all forms of tobacco.

Fair enough, we say, and the ADA can consider our awareness suitably raised.

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