The Truth About Chewing

By Rachel LaMotte

RachelWith Finlandia being a tobacco-free campus, I’m surprised at how many people I see with a “dip” in their lip, or a “spitter” in their hand.

Being the curious person that I am, I decided to ask one of the people why he chews and what he think the health risks are. He would like to be kept anonymous for repercussion reasons, so we’ll call him Steve.

“It’s better than smoking,” said Steve. “You’re less likely to get cancer.” I didn’t believe what he said, so I decided to a little research to find out the truth.

If you happen to look at a can of chew, you will notice the warning label that takes up the bottom half of the can. One of the labels says, “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.” So I decided to do a little research as to why that is, and what I found was interesting.

According to, smokeless tobacco kills fewer people than cigarettes, but, “smokeless tobacco hurts and kills people all the same.”

In response to Steve’s comment about being less likely to get cancer, I found out that although it doesn’t have as high of a lethality rate as smoking, there are plenty of cancer causing substances that are in chewing tobacco which can be just as dangerous.

“Smokeless tobacco contains more than 25 cancer-causing compounds, including arsenic and formaldehyde,” according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC). “People who use these products have an increased risk of developing cancers of the mouth and throat.”

So although chewers will be less likely to have lung cancer, which is common for people who smoke cigarettes, you still have a risk of getting oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and also pancreatic cancer, according to the CDC.

Also, if cancer runs in your family, like it does in Steve’s, you can be at an even higher risk of developing it.

Another thing Steve said is, “it costs less to chew. A can of dip is usually cheaper than a pack of cigarettes, and you might not go through that much dip in a week. It all depends on how much and how often you chew.”

I wanted to know just how much you would spend in a year if you were to chew, and the National Institute of Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) had it all calculated in 2012.

The NIDCR says, “a can of dip costs an average of nearly $3. A two-can-a-week habit costs about $300 per year. A can-a-day habit costs nearly $1,100 per year. Likewise, chewing tobacco costs about $2. A pouch-a-day habit costs over $700 a year.”

Since it was calculated in 2012, think about how much the price of a can could have gone up. Knowing that Steve uses four cans in a week, it amazing to think about where all of that money could be going.

There are other things you could be spending that money on, like education (loans, supplies, tuition, etc.), family, future life (kid’s education, house, car), or even for travelling.

“You can’t get addicted to chewing,” said Steve. “I can stop whenever I want to. It’s not like cigarettes where once I do them, I’ll be hooked.” Knowing Steve for a few years, before he started chewing, I’ve seen that when he doesn’t chew for a few hours he gets moody, and irritated quickly.

With this in mind, I looked once more at the NIDCR, which states that, “holding an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes gives you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. A 2-can-a-week snuff dipper gets as much nicotine as a 1-1/2 pack-a-day smoker does.”

As I mentioned, Steve uses four cans a week, so he is receiving as much nicotine as a person who smokes 3 packs a day, and he’ll spend approximately $600 a year. That’s more than enough to get you addicted.

I also discovered that, according to, the nicotine gets absorbed through the mouth, which causes the nicotine to stay in your bloodstream for a longer period of time than it would in people who smoke, which can cause a strong addiction.

This addiction can cause physical and psychological dependence, which can make you sick, make you moody if you go without, like Steve, and it will make it harder for you to quit. If you have a family, or you’re in a relationship, that could become a problem if you ever had to go a long period of time without chew.

With these risks, and more, I’m still confused as to why people continue to chew.

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