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Smokeless tobacco use: a safe alternative?

Proceedings of the 18th Annual Institute on Coal Mining Health, Safety and Research, Blacksburg, Virginia, August 25-27, 1987. Faulkner G, Sutherland WH, Forshey DR, Lucas JR, eds., Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1987 Aug; :27-37
The taking of smokeless tobacco products in the United States was widespread until the turn of the last century. The advent of antispitting laws associated with the spread of contagious diseases, and the increased popularity of cigarette smoking, brought about a marked decline in usage during much of this century. Recent data, however, indicate a resurgence in smokeless tobacco use habits, particularly amongst teenage and young adult males. In the United States, the smokeless variety of the pernicious weed is produced in two basic forms: chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is marketed mostly in the looseleaf (pouch) and plug (tightly packed) varieties, looseleaf being predominant. Snuff is more finely ground and is marketed in both dry and moist forms. Dry snuff can be placed or inhaled into the nasal cavity, a rare practice in the U.S. Gum painting with dry snuff, however, is somewhat more common -- especially with women. Between 1944 and 1968, total smokeless tobacco production declined from 150 to around 90 million pounds. By 1985, production had climbed to 135 million pounds. Between 1964 and 1985, the prevalence of smokeless tobacco use for adults remained fairly stable, but a marked change in the overall age distribution of users took place during this period. For example, in 1970, use of smokeless tobacco was most common amongst older men, while in 1985, the highest rates of use were observed in the younger age groups. Recent estimates indicated that 16 percent of males between the ages of 12 and 25 used some form of smokeless tobacco in the year preceding the study, and five to eight percent used it at least once a week. Around 10 percent of men over age 25 used smokeless tobacco in the preceding year. Use by females of all ages was consistently less than that of males, about two percent having used smokeless tobacco in the previous year. Other studies mimic these findings and indicate increased use of smokeless tobacco products by young males. General findings include the following: 1) Use of smokeless tobacco by youth is generally higher in rural than urban areas, in small communities, and in areas where there is a tradition of smokeless tobacco use. 2)Information on smokeless tobacco use by ethnic and racial background indicates that rates for youth are comparable for Hispanic and non Hispanic Whites. Native American rates were consistently higher than those for Whites and, in most locales, use was less common for Asians and Blacks. 3) Amongst youth, the likelihood of using smokeless tobacco appears to increase with age as well as over time. 4) Peers and family members are found consistently to be important influences on smokeless tobacco use by children and adolescents. Health issues surrounding the use of smokeless tobacco products do not rival national problems involving cigarette smoking and hard drug use. Nonetheless, it is clear that the use of smokeless tobacco products is increasing on a near-epidemic scale, and along with the increased use is a growing body of literature suggesting adverse health effects. The purpose of this paper is to add to this important literature, and report smokeless tobacco use habits amongst select population groups, with emphasis on miners, other adults living in mining communities, and children of both miners and non-miners.
Statistical-analysis; Tobacco; Smoking; Behavior-patterns; Cigarette-smoking; Tobacco-smoke; Health-hazards; Monitoring-systems; Disease-prevention; Disease-control
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Faulkner-G; Sutherland-WH; Forshey-DR; Lucas-JR
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Proceedings of the 18th Annual Institute on Coal Mining Health, Safety and Research, Blacksburg, Virginia, August 25-27, 1987
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division