Harmful Effects of Chewing Tobacco

No Tobacco Day

Chewing tobacco or smokeless tobacco is a chief preventable cause of death from cancer and other diseases, yet there are more than 300 million tobacco chewing users globally with 82% being male. Key facts being that tobacco kills up to half of its users which is more than 8 million people each year; researchers have found that nearly 29 percent of these deaths were because of chewing tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco is chewed in the form of Paan Masala, Gutkha, Khaini,  Dip and Chew in various countries. Due to lack of awareness, the consumers believe that they are obtaining benefits such as germicidal properties, mouth fresheners, digestive aids, mood enhancement, relief from tension, and oral cleansing.  And before they realise that it is doing more harm than good, they become addicted to such substances.

But what they don’t understand is that these products contain harmful amounts of Nicotine and nitrosamine derivatives which have the potential to produce free, reactive oxygen radicals. 

These can ultimately damage genetic material such as RNA & DNA, along with being able to potentially destroy cells that produce proteins to form the inner lining of our mouth – fibroblasts. 

This practice of consuming smokeless tobacco around the world can lead to OSMF – oral submucous fibrosis – a condition that is chronic and highly dangerous. 

This condition is further triggered by certain substances added to paan and gutkha, such as areca nuts, betel leaves, and slaked lime. These components can potentially trigger the fibrosis of the oral submucosal tissue.

OSMF persists for an extended period of time in the patient’s mouth and is characterized by extreme irritation and the slow, continuous fibrosis of not only the superficial but also the connective tissues that lie deep below. 

In the worst-case scenario, prolonged chewing of tobacco and its products can lead to the formation and accumulation of carcinogenic factors such as N-nitrosonornicotine – which can lead to oral cancer. 

These smokeless tobacco products such as paan, gutkha, and zarda can be taken orally, chewed or sucked on, or applied to the teeth and gums. Recently, the World Health Organisation classified these smokeless products as carcinogenic substances that account for larger than 3/4th of the “N-nitroso compound” (NOC) burden in the human body.

These products are not only associated with cancers of the mouth as well as the pancreas but also cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions. Some studies have even reported associated detrimental effects on women’s reproductive systems. 

Areca nuts that are used along with tobacco products have stimulating effects that lead to a decrease in hunger, improved digestion, alertness, and depression on the nervous system that leads to relaxation. Gutkha has genotoxic properties and when these tobacco products combine with alcohol, they increase the risk of oral cancer.

Cancer of the mouth is among the top ten types of cancer that dominate worldwide. There are around 232 million tobacco-users in India, of which 30 percent are into the habit of chewing tobacco.

Oral cancer accounts for 35% of cancer cases reported in India and the occurrence is higher in northern states such as Uttar Pradesh. Surprisingly, children, teenagers, and young adults comprise the smokeless tobacco consumer demographic. Despite the ban imposed on several of these substances, they are sold regularly on the black market.

Bhookha Haathi has a vision for 2050, where it would want to reduce the consumption of tobacco by more than 50 percent.

Also, there is a need to limit the consumption of unhealthy pan masalas and oral fresheners that are full of additives & preservatives and cannot claim to be 100 percent natural.

At Bhookha Haathi, we are constantly thinking of our consumers and looking for innovative ways to help them make healthier food choices through our alternative food products.

Our popular range of dry fruit and nut-based mouth refreshers are a great alternative to tobacco & non-tobacco based harmful chewables and work well as digestives too. It is made with aromatics such as fennel which is not only loaded with freshness but is also full of nutrients. Along with it, almonds, cashews, and other dry fruits improve many physiological functions and prevent the onset of several diseases including cancer.

A handful of this refresher contains anti-ageing and anti-infective agents, help in the lowering of bad cholesterol along with the added benefit of boosting your immunity. 

If you have been trying to get rid of a persistent chewing habit, or simply want a healthier replacement for your regular, artificially sweetened mouth refresher, this is for you.

Written by: Jahnabee Adhikari
Jahnabee is a part-time blogger, full-time dog lover. She believes that writing actually possesses the potential to change the world. She can be often found fantasizing about poetry or buried nose-deep in a Sudha Murthy novel.

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