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Think Before You Chew

By Kelsey Jacobson

At the young age of 15 Sean Kieselhorst, a junior BSU Mass Communications major, witnessed his friends chewing tobacco. Kieselhorst recalls the first time he tried chewing tobacco—the nicotine made his body feel good. Kieselhorst described the buzz as being comparable to drinking alcohol. “The nicotine from the chew was able to help calm me down,” said Kieselhorst.

A year and a half ago, Kieselhorst quit chewing at the age of 19, because it was getting expensive and his girlfriend wanted him to quit. He knew down the road it would lead to the development of sensitive or bleeding gums but Kieselhorst had no noticeable effects when he kicked the habit.

Chewing tobacco, also known as smokeless tobacco, comes in two types of forms—moist snuff and dry snuff. Moist snuff is the most commonly used form as users can put it between the lower lip, cheek, or gum with the nicotine being absorbed through the tissues of the mouth.

Any kind of smokeless tobacco is a major health risk. Individuals who chew get about the same amount of nicotine as regular smokers with the nicotine staying in the blood longer. Some types of cancer linked to chewing tobacco include mouth and tongue cancer. On average, users spend about 7 dollars on a can of chew that lasts about 2 to 3 days says Kieselhorst.

Kieselhorst would rather go through a can of tobacco than a pack of cigarettes in a week. In the last two years, he has went to the dentist and they have not found anything noticeable with his teeth, and never asking if he chewed before, they just told him to stay off the sweets.

According to Dr. Blake Smith, a Doctor Dental Surgery dentist at Bemidji Dental Clinic, chewing can cause inflammation and receding of the gums. Often the dentist has to cut out a portion of the patient’s tongue and jaw. Frequent chewers have a greater chance developing Leukoplakia in the mouth where users often place their chew. Leukoplakia is a gray-white patch in the mouth that cannot be scraped off and is usually painless.

Chewing is often worse than cigarettes in the fact that it creates a harmful environment to the digestive system. Smith says he has seen less patients using chew, yet the number one college student demographic Smith often sees using is baseball players. In short, students should think and be informed about what they are doing to their bodies before they begin to damage it.