Chewing Tobacco and its Health Effects on Teenagers
There is no safe form of tobacco for people to take. However, teenagers might have the idea that chewing tobacco is inherently safer than smoking. Even though there’s no smoke inhalation, using dip tobacco still comes with a variety of health risks, including cancer. Peer pressure can get your teen started on dip tobacco. As a parent, you need to do your part to be aware of the dangers of tobacco use and be clear to your teenager about what the risks for them are, especially in the long-term.
Research shows that 1 in 10 teens use tobacco. While this is less than the number of adults, it’s still a concerning statistic that ten percent of teenagers use tobacco. As a legal product, tobacco might be more accessible for teens, which could largely contribute to their usage. They might also rationalize that since tobacco products are legal, that the health risks shouldn’t be taken that seriously.
Teenagers are also bound to be less conscious of their health in the future. Tobacco usage might not have any immediate effects (beyond having some negative impact on their appearance), and they might think that they can quit before the most devastating effects take place. However, tobacco (more specifically nicotine) is incredibly addictive and users won’t be willing to quit, even long after they should have.
Use of tobacco is largely rooted in social pressure. Your teenager might not be told by their peer group that they’ll be ostracized if they don’t use dip tobacco. However, if they see others using it, they might feel obligated to, for fear of being ostracized. Younger minds want to be accepted among their friends, which can cause them to make shortsighted decisions. When discussing tobacco and other drugs with your teenager, remind them that there’s a difference between doing something you want to do, and doing something because others are doing it.
You should also make your teenager aware of the health risks of using dip tobacco. It poses a large threat to the user’s oral health. Not only does it stain the teeth, rendering them unattractive, it can also contribute to substantial tooth decay that could eventually lead to loss of teeth. Dip tobacco also wreaks havoc on the gum, separating tissue from the teeth and causing various diseases. There has also been speculation as to a possible link between using of dip tobacco and cardiovascular problems.
One of the biggest threats posed by any form of tobacco usage is cancer. Some of the cancers that have been linked to using dip tobacco include mouth cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, and stomach cancer. Even if tobacco use doesn’t end a user’s life, it can significantly reduce their quality of life, with vital body parts such as tongues and jaws being removed in part or in whole due to their tobacco use.
There are some signs of tobacco use to be aware of. If your teen’s teeth look noticeably stained, they might be using dip tobacco. Since chewing tobacco users have to spit their dip, your teen might have receptacles such as empty water or soda bottles that they use, scattered around their bedroom. You might also find cans of tobacco, either full or empty, in places that they thought they could hide them, such as in their dresser drawers or under their bed.
If you believe or find evidence that your teenager is using dip tobacco, it’s important that you be understanding and not accusatory towards them. If they deny or admit to it, tell them that they’re not in trouble with you, but they will be in substantial trouble in the future if they don’t do anything about it now. They might not care about the future. So, you should help them understand that their future is now, and any habits they have now will affect them in the future, and in a much worse way.
To help your teen stop using dip tobacco, it can help to weigh the benefits against the disadvantages. Likely the only advantages of continuing to use dip tobacco are the belief of social acceptance and continuing to feed an addiction. The disadvantages are multiple, including health risks, expenses, and ostracization from those who don’t use dip tobacco.
If you have a teen using dip tobacco, there are resources to help. You can look into anti-tobacco programs that will help. If they’re having a very difficult time, inpatient treatment programs like the one at Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center can help.
Using dip tobacco can start as a small habit but blossom into a big problem. By speaking with your teen about using dip tobacco and its effects, you can help to keep them away from dip tobacco.