Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and may be more difficult to quit. Teens who use it may be interested to know that one can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce precancerous lesions called leukoplakia. Early signs of oral cancer:
- A sore that won’t heal.
- White or red leathery patches on the inner lips and cheeks, and on or under the tongue.
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue; or a change in the way the teeth fit together.
Smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, and nicotine vape products contain cancerous chemicals. Because these chemicals come into contact with the soft tissues of the mouth, oral cancer can develop and grow quickly due to the highly innervated and vascular nature of the oral soft tissues. Because the early signs of oral cancer usually are not painful, people often ignore them. If it’s not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery or even worse can result in death.