Friday, August 24, 2007

Snuff: More dangerous than smoking?

It’s a toss-up which is more distasteful — blowing cigarette smoke in the faces of your friends and loved ones or spitting tobacco juice profusely in their presence.

But a new study has found one might be more dangerous for you than the other.

A report published this month by the American Association for Cancer Research has some frightening findings for users of the smokeless tobacco known as snuff, a powdered variation of chewing tobacco tucked just behind the lip.

The study at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center found that snuff delivers to its user even higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals than cigarettes.

Compared to smokers, the snuff users in the study were receiving more of the carcinogenic molecules known as nitrosamines, known to cause lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer of the nose and liver.

Westminster construction worker John Schneehagen, 45, learned first-hand the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

Several years ago, after two decades of using smokeless tobacco, Schneehagen noticed a bump on his tongue. He elected to ignore it for a few years.

By the time he encountered Dr. John Saunders Jr., a surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and medical director of Greater Baltimore Head & Neck Associates, Schneehagen required surgery to remove the tumor on his tongue and the lymph nodes in his neck where the cancer had spread.

Schneehagen, who has been cancer free for 2.5 years, describes himself as “lucky.” “The worst thing that happened was I lost part of my tongue, but I’ve gotten used to that,” he said in a news release from GBMC.

More than 55,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year, and the disease will kill 13,000, according to the American Academy of Otolarygology — Head and Neck Surgery.

Do you or people you know use smokeless tobacco? How dangerous do you think it is? Should it be regulated more stringently? Tell us what you think.

-KAREN BUCKELEW, Daily Record Business Writer

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