Smokeless Tobacco Creating Health Problems


NA-BO555_TOBACC_F_20111214165525One advertisement tells the public that a “pinch” of smokeless tobacco between cheek and gum leads to “real tobacco pleasure.” But what the ad doesn’t say is that many researchers believe sustained use can lead to oral cancer as well.

“At least 95 percent of the people I have spoken to who use snuff or chewing tobacco think it is safe,” says Ronald A. Baughman, DDS, professor of oral medicine at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, Gainesville. Dr. Baughman estimates that he sees one patient per month who has developed precancerous lesions from the use of smokeless tobacco.

Advertising campaigns featuring sports celebrities have contributed to a rapid increase in sales of smokeless tobacco over the past 10 years, and medical literature was also promoting the product as a substitute for cigarettes as late as 1980. But with the rise in smokeless tobacco use, especially among middle- and upper-class adolescents and young adults, the incidence of precancerous lesions has increased, prompting researchers to look for a link between the two developments. Today about seven million people in the United States are thought to use smokeless tobacco; the incidence of oral cancer is about 25,000 cases a year.

“Several recent studies and significant clinical experience show an association between the use of chewing tobacco and oral cavity cancer,” according to an American Cancer Society pamphlet.

And the initial results of a 20-year study of teenagers undertaken at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, hare reconfirmed this relationship.

The researchers have found that 50 percent of the smokeless-tobacco users studies had observable leukoplakia and that 10 percent of those with leukoplakia already had developed lesions likely to become

cancerous with continued use of smokeless tobacco.MF-SmokeKid03_t607

“If we find precancerous lesions in time, and if the patient stops using tobacco, the lesions may regress and clear themselves,” Dr. Baughman says. He adds that early discovery is difficult because the stronger brands of smokeless tobacco, which can be the most dangerous, tend to periodically leave the user’s mouth burned and raw. This episodic soreness may mask symptoms of a developing oral cancer.

Although dentists play a key role in detecting the lesions, Dr. Baughman suggests two actions primary care physicians can take:

“The physicians can do an oral exam as part of every physical examination of a teenaged or young adult patient. Looking for leukoplakia and cancerous lesions takes less than a minute.

“Also, the physician can routinely ask all patients if they use chewing tobacco and tell those who do it may cause cancer.” Lots of users of smokeless tobacco are being encouraged to use alternatives such as electronic cigarettes or similar in an attempt to reduce harm to themselves and costs to the healthcare system.

Health Ramifications for Australia’s Youth


kronic_650In bad news for smokers of the trendy synthetic drugs flooding Australia, the New South Wales ( NSW) government has announced it will ban all variants of the synthetic cannabis.

The NSW state government gave Kronic one of the fake marijuana brand names – users three days to have their fun: after that and as of Friday, July 1 – all synthetic highs are off.

As of July 7, possession becomes illegal. And the synthetic dope party that’s been legal and growing in popularity finally goes up in smoke.

The drug is currently sold legally over the internet and in, tobacconists, herbal outlets and adult shops under names like Kronic, Spice and Northern Lights and sold at websites such as

The so-called “mood-enhancement” market has been flooded with synthetic alternatives to banned drugs in recent times, including herbal ecstasy.

Critics of the ban argue it will create a black market or force smokers back to marijuana. Psychiatrists, however, say the drugs can impair judgment, induce paranoia and have as yet unknown health ramifications.

Clinical Psychologist, Canberra-based Julie Hause said, “You’d need your head checked if you smoked this stuff…and you’d probably need it checked afterwards, that’s for sure…it looks dangerous.”

Even more concerning is the anecdotal evidence that these products can be 10 times stronger than conventional marijuana and therefore carry an even higher health and safety risks

Mental Health Minister Kevin Humphries has said the government has a duty to ban the products because they are a clear risk to health and safety.

The booming resource-rich state of Western Australia was the first Australian state to ban the synthetic drugs after mining companies discovered employees were using the drugs at work to avoid stringent drug testing systems in place on mine sites.

South Australia followed suit soon afterwards, but unlike NSW gave no notice of its because of concerns people would stockpile the drugs.

Selling the drugs in Sydney and throughout NSW will be banned from this Friday, midnight, with a total ban on their use, smoking or otherwise – to come into effect a full week later, giving Australia’s growing number of users just one week to stock up and smoke up.

But not everyone supports the ban.

Sydney office worker ‘Joel’ (not his real name) complained there was no evidence, scientific or otherwise that proved Kronic or similar synthetic cannabis drugs had adverse health effects.

“It’s silly. Why not wait till there’s evidence… You can’t just ban something because there’s a general feeling it’s no good. …pot smokers will just keep using pot (marijuana) so why not make this legal and keep the money away from pot dealers. Just dumb.”

Learning The Lessons From Yesteryear


In terms of today’s health care, keeping focused on the prevention of illness and disease can mean multimillion dollar savings annually to our national, state, and local governments, to employers, and to individuals. Most important, it mens people will live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

And that is why wellness is a concept whose time has indeed come. It is a concept that can help us put a stop to the seemingly inexorable rise in the cost of health care in this country.

Americans currently spend more for health care than on either national defence or Social Security. It seems impossible to imagine, but every day we spend $1 billion, not necessarily keeping ourselves healthy, but on health. And if we continue as we are, we will spend twice as much in the future.2index_preventive

Beyond the fact that wellness is just good, common sense, wellness programs make good economic sense as well. They can complement savings being generated by a host of new initiatives now appearing under the banner of health-care cost-containment.

Wellness can complement “prospective payment,” a federally endorsed concept in which costs for particular health-care encounter are set in advance.

Wellness should be considered as a cost-saving tool along with the growing use of ambulatory care and the avoidance of hospitalization–by far the most expensive treatment in today’s health-care system.

Wellness should be nurtured just as are preferred provider organizations–those hospitals or medical groups that guarantee cost-efficiencies. And wellness programs can work well in conjunction with health-maintenance organizations, which are a proven method of reducing costs providing fixed-rate, prepaid medical service.

Wellness can be as cost-effective as any of these innovations. This is especially true when one realizes that smoking, poor nutrition, and stress problems–all life-style and habit patterns that wellness programs challenge–are the underlying causes for diseases the treatment of which constitutes a significant percentage of our health-care dollars.

It’s unfortunate that, for so many years, preventive medicine has taken a back seat to crisis-management medicine. Business managers know that solving small problems today often can prevent larger, more costly problems from developing tomorrow. Wellness programs can keep us focused on preventing problems, rather than having to fix the crises after they develop.

The business community has played–and must continue to play–a major role in the development of wellness programs. Now there are sophisticated, comprehensive programs that help employees fight everything from lower back pain to smoking to stress–and more.url

All of these programs have a common thread: the individual shares the responsibility for success. That participation–the fact that the individual can indeed have an impact on his or her medical future–is important to the overall effectiveness of any wellness program. And, given the mounting body of evidence available to us, it is increasingly clear that wellness works:

* New York Telephone estimates an annual saving of more than $2 million in reduced absenteeism and lowered medical costs–just from a stop-smoking program.

* A year after a company in Houston introduced a wellness program, medical costs plummeted nearly in half, disability days were cut by 20%, and the company saved roughly $230 per employee–after expenses for the program.

* Kennecott Corp. has reduced its medical-care costs by more than half among 12,000 employees participating in its wellness program.

* Massachusetts Mutual has found that a wellness program for hypertension reduced hospital stays among participants by 10%.

Literally hundreds of such wellness programs exist or are being created around the nation. But much more needs to be done.

I believe that the corporation is one of the best places in which to spread the wellness doctrine–the place to provide the motivation, to establish the control, and to erect the infrastructure. Many people spend most of their waking hours at their workplace. That is where attitudes and life-styles are moulded and reinforced. The workplace is where feedback and response can be monitored and controlled.

Part of the business community’s self-interest is obvious. We know that these programs can reduced absenteeism and lower medical costs. But there’s a more subtle self-interest as well. Something hard to define. Maybe it’s company pride, a feeling among all of us that we’re helping to make people’s lives better.

Inasmuch as more companies are becoming aware of the obvious advantages of these programs, I am optimistic about the future of the wellness movement.

And frankly, it’s about time. Right now, we’re spending far too little for an ounce of prevention and far too much for the pound of cure. If we can redress that imbalance, even slightly, we will have done more to reduce the cost of medical care and improve our health than has ever been done