No matter what form it takes, there’s no such thing as safe tobacco.

The good news is fewer kids are smoking. The bad news is Big Tobacco has come up with more ways to get them hooked.

It’s official.

According to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, cigarette smoking among high school and middle school students has declined over the past decade. While that’s a victory for young people, it’s also provided a new challenge to tobacco companies—how to keep kids using tobacco even as they turn away from cigarettes, with new temptations such as e-cigarettes. They know the earlier kids start using nicotine or tobacco, the more likely they’ll be hooked and become lifelong customers.

Almost 90 percent of today’s adult smokers started before age 19. 1

Big Tobacco met the challenge by introducing e-cigarettes that emit no smoke, ash, or telltale smell, plus flavors young people like—including apple, berry, mint, cognac, cream, and wine—into cigar products and smokeless tobacco like chew and snuff. Plus, new products like Snus and dissolvable tobacco. Snus is powdered tobacco in a teabag-like pouch that is easily hidden from view when tucked under the lip, while dissolvable tobacco mimics the look of candy, mints, toothpicks, and breath-freshening strips. Tobacco companies market these products in small, brightly colored packages as if they were selling candy and mints, not toxic, addictive tobacco.

All tobacco is harmful.

Many kids believe that if it isn’t a cigarette, it isn’t that harmful. Not true. The nicotine in all tobacco products is proven to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. And tobacco can cause health problems even if it’s not smoked. Smokeless products contain 28 cancer-causing agents and are known to increase the risk of oral and pancreatic cancers. Even cigar smokers, whether they inhale or not, are at higher risk for lung, esophageal, laryngeal, and oral cancers than nonsmokers.

In every form, tobacco is toxic. Addictive. Deadly. Get to know it in its many forms so you can warn teens and preteens about what Big Tobacco has in store for them.

1. cancer.org: Questions about Smoking, Tobacco and Health.


Cigars and other smokes

Cigars

  • Contain air-cured, fermented tobacco, with tobacco wrapper.
  • Can measure more than seven inches long.
  • One large cigar contains up to a cigarette pack’s worth of tobacco: 20 grams.

Cigarillos

  • Short, narrow version of cigars, but larger than a cigarette.
  • May be filtered or tipped.
  • Often flavored; contain up to three grams of tobacco.
  • Often smoked daily and inhaled.

Little Cigars

  • Available filtered and unfiltered, and in flavors (fruit or alcohol).
  • Contain one gram of tobacco.

Harmful effects2

Cigar smoke contains higher levels of cancer-causing agents (carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, arsenic, cadmium, and nitrosamines), tar, and toxins than cigarette smoke. Smoking cigars can cause oral, laryngeal, esophageal, and lung cancer. Cigars take longer to smoke, increasing toxic compound exposure, which can increase risk of heart and lung diseases.

2. cancer.gov: National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Cigar Smoking and Cancer.

What to look for

All sizes, from large cigars to cigarettes. Sweet aromas indicate flavored varieties and can linger on clothes. Cigarillos often sold as singles, two-packs, or four-packs. Little cigars are often sold as singles or 20-packs. The Black & Mild brand is particularly popular.


E-cigarettes

An insidious new phenomenon sweeping the state and nation.

The Centers for Disease Control reports:

  • E-cigarettes are battery-operated but do not burn tobacco.
  • E-cigs heat nicotine, propylene glycol, and glycerin into an inhalable vapor.
  • E-cigs encourage smokers who would have quit to continue, thinking they are safer.
  • E-cigs are characterized as glamorous, tempting teens to start.
  • E-cig use by teens who never smoked rose from 79,000 in 2011 to 263,000 in 2013!
  • Almost 44% of nonsmoking teens using e-cigs intend to smoke conventional cigarettes.

Harmful effects

The health risks of e-cigarettes have not yet been extensively studied, but exhaled e-cigarette vapors release carcinogens and toxins into the air. E-cigs are only beginning to come under government regulation.

What to look for

E-cigarette starter kits contain two rechargeable batteries, 5 x 16 mg nicotine cartridges, and a charging pack that looks like a cigarette pack and plugs into a computer or car. E-cigs generate little or no odor.


Dissolvables

Slated to enter the Delaware market in the near future.

Orbs

  • Flavored pellets or tabs of finely milled tobacco.
  • They dissolve in the mouth like candy or mints.
  • Deliver 1 mg of nicotine each, like a cigarette.

Strips

  • Strips of tobacco that mimic breath strips.
  • Dissolve in mouth in two to three minutes.
  • Deliver about 0.6 mg of nicotine each.

Sticks

  • Look like oversized toothpicks.
  • Dissolve in mouth in 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Deliver 3.1 mg of nicotine, equal to two cigarettes.

Harmful effects 3

Though information on specific health effects of dissolvables is not yet available, smokeless tobacco is linked to oral cancer, gum disease, nicotine addiction, and cardiovascular disease. Constant exposure to tobacco juice causes cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, and pancreas. Children may mistake these products for candy and ingest them, which can result in tobacco poisoning.

What to look for

Colorful plastic packaging that resembles packaging for candy, mints, and breath strips.

3. tobaccofreekids.org: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Fact Sheet: Danger from Dissolvable Tobacco and Other Smokeless Tobacco Products.


New Smokeless

Snus

  • Flavored, ground tobacco packaged in pouches held between lip and gum.
  • No spitting required. Often used where smoking is not permitted.
  • Packaged in brightly colored tins like breath mints.

Traditional Smokeless

Dip

  • Fine-ground tobacco packaged in round tins.
  • Pinch of tobacco held between lower lip and gum.
  • Tobacco juice usually spit out, but sometimes swallowed.

Chew

  • Loose tobacco leaves in pouches.
  • Wad of tobacco held between cheek and gum.
  • Tobacco juice usually spit out, but sometimes swallowed.

Snuff

  • Dry or moist finely ground tobacco in tins.
  • Pinch held between cheek and lower lip or gum.
  • Dry, powdered snuff can be inhaled.

Harmful effects 4

Smokeless tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents, increasing the risk for oral and pancreatic cancers. It is also strongly associated with leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion of the soft tissue of the mouth. Receding gums, gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss can also result.

Use during pregnancy increases risk for preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight. Use by males can cause reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm cells.

What to look for

Small tins and pouches that are easy to hide in pockets. Bad breath and stained teeth are also indicators of smokeless tobacco use.

4. cdc.org: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Smoking, Tobacco Use, Fact Sheet: Smokeless Tobacco Facts.

What you can do

Use this brochure as a starting point to talk to others about the dangers of tobacco use in any form. Let kids know it’s not just cigarettes that are harmful, but all types of tobacco. Help parents and other influential adults learn of the different tactics tobacco companies use to target our youth. Also contact your child’s school to ask if there are anti-tobacco—not just anti-smoking—initiatives under way.

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