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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Cancer-Causing Chemical in Smokeless Tobacco ID'd

Researchers Identify Chemical Linked to Oral Cancer Risk in Smokeless Tobacco

Is Smokeless Tobacco the Lesser of Two Evils? continued...

"Is jay walking safer than jay walking blindfolded?" asks Nathan Cobb, MD. He is a research investigator at the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the American Legacy Foundation and a pulmonologist at Georgetown University, both in Washington D.C.

"You are not going to get lung cancer from them, but you will be at higher risk for other types of cancer,” he says.

We knew it was harmful, but we didn't know exactly how until now, says Richard B. Hayes, PhD. He leads the division of epidemiology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"This study identifies an agent in smokelesss tobacco that causes cancer in animal models,” he says. But this is not to say that it's the only one. Hayes likens this to earlier hopes that adding filters to cigarette tips would lower smoking risks. Unfortunately, that didn't quite pan out.

"I would be concerned that people will think that taking this ingredient away would eliminate all risks and we do not know if that is true.”

Gilbert Ross, MD, medical director of the American Council on Science and Health in New York City, is an advocate of harm reduction and can see a use for smokeless tobacco, though. "Allowing smokers to get help in quitting their lethal addiction via safer nicotine delivery systems such as snus or e-cigarettes will reduce the huge toll of smoking,” he says.

Ninety-eight percent of tobacco-related disease is caused by smoking cigarettes, Ross says via email.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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