Throughout history, users of tobacco have received their nicotine fix from a variety of methods. Cigarettes, dip, chew, cigars, hookah and patches are all tobacco products that administer nicotine to the bloodstream and give users a “buzz”.
After regular use of the tobacco product, the “buzz” disappears, and the user becomes addicted.
Recently, a smokeless tobacco craze is sweeping teenagers nationwide. Smokeless tobacco, also known as “chew”, “dip”, “spit tobacco”, “snus” and “snuff” has a reputation among teens as being “safer” than cigarettes. This misconception can lead to serious health problems.
According to the American Cancer Association, “Smokeless tobacco is less lethal than cigarettes, but using any form of tobacco puts you at serious health risks. Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking. Harmful health effects associated with smokeless tobacco include, but are not limited to: oral, throat, esophagus, stomach and pancreatic cancer, receding gums, leukoplakia, and tooth loss.”
However, even the warnings of the health risks involved with smokeless tobacco are not always a deterrent to teens. Many students at Leesville are aware and some even participate in the dangerous, growing trend.
“Joey”, an anonymous junior at Leesville, has dipped since the seventh grade but does not consider dipping dangerous. “I’m not worried about my health right now, but I might later.”
Health risks are not the only negative aspect about dip. Once addicted, the habit becomes quite expensive. Joey commented, “I spend about $10 a day on my dippin’.”
Joey made frequent attempts to kick the habit but each time reverted back to the can. “When I try to quit, I get headaches and my lip throbs. I ain’t quit for more than a couple hours.”
The American Indians introduced the plant to the colonists in the early 1600’s, making tobacco a staple in the lives of Americans since the founding of the country. After that, smokeless tobacco began its ride on a roller coaster of popularity. From the colonists chewing tobacco leaves, to the pipe-smoking of the 1800’s, to the cigarettes of the sixties and seventies, tobacco has a habit of trending over the years.
According to Stephen Dowshen, MD, baseball players played a major role in the popularity of chewing tobacco in America. “Players chewed it to keep their mouths moist, spit it into their gloves to soften them up, and used it to make a ‘spitball’.”
Dowshen added that perceptions on smokeless tobacco changed as health concerns developed, “[I]n the 1970s, people became more aware of the dangers of smoking. Thinking it was a safe alternative to lighting up, baseball players started chewing on their tobacco again.”
Bryan Ball, senior and anti-dip advocate, is worried about how tobacco is marketed towards teens. “It’s just a shame that the tobacco companies are making dip attractive to girls. The flavored dip that comes in pouches is just a sneaky way of making girls think that dipping is cute.”
Ball is not the only teenager at Leesville that resists the pressure of smokeless tobacco. Brett Bischler, senior, expressed his rationale for saying “no” to dip via text message.
“I have one too many dangerous hobbies to occupy myself with. Putting shards of glass in my mouth? I couldn’t think of bigger waste of time.”
The resolve to resist peer pressure requires fortitude and moral integrity. Giving into peer pressure to dip only begins a cycle of physical and mental self-degradation.
Thankfully, Leesville has many students that exemplify this strength and demonstrate Pride in refusing tobacco.