More Teen Boys Are Using Smokeless Tobacco, Survey Finds

But expert warns that it's not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking

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THURSDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Smokeless tobacco use by adolescent boys in the United States increased from 3.4 to 4.4 percent from 2002 to 2007, according to a federal government report released Thursday.

At the same time, use of smokeless tobacco in the past month among all people older than 12 remained in the 3.0 to 3.3 percent range. About 7.8 million people 12 and older reported using smokeless tobacco in the past month in 2007, according to the report, Smokeless Tobacco Use, Initiation and Relationship to Cigarette Smoking: 2002 to 2007.

The report is based on data from approximately 405,000 people ages 12 and older who took part in nationwide surveys on drug use and health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Smokeless tobacco products include tobacco or tobacco blends that are chewed, placed in the mouth outside the gums, or inhaled or snorted through the nose.

The report also found:

  • Among current smokeless tobacco users, 85.8 percent used cigarettes at some time in their lives, and 38.8 percent used cigarettes in the past month.
  • Among persons who had used both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes in their lifetime, 31.8 percent started using smokeless tobacco first, 65.5 percent started using cigarettes first and 2.7 percent initiated use of smokeless tobacco and cigarettes at about the same time.
  • Males (6.2 percent) were more likely than females (0.4 percent) to be current smokeless tobacco users.
  • Some smokers believe switching to smokeless tobacco will help them quit smoking, but the report found that 88.1 percent of daily smokers who started using smokeless tobacco were still smoking six months later.

"These findings and the medical literature indicate that using smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking," Eric Broderick, the agency's acting administrator, said in a government news release. "We need to make everyone aware that all forms of tobacco use can cause nicotine addiction, cancer and death."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about smokeless tobacco.

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