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Teen Health

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Smokeless Tobacco

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A. The most noticeable side effects are stained teeth and poor dental health. Although these are not usually life threatening, dental problems are painful, expensive, and may hurt your social life. Chewing tobacco and snuff can turn your teeth yellowish-brown and give you bad breath. They can also make your gums bleed and create sores on your gums and inside your mouth that refuse to heal.

The most serious health risk associated with smokeless tobacco is cancer. Smokeless tobacco products contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. Over time, these chemicals increase your risk of cancers in the mouth and throat. If you use smokeless tobacco, talk to your doctor about checking for any precancerous lesions.

While tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the United States, more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year because of tobacco use. If you have thought about using smokeless tobacco or any other tobacco product, think again. Any tobacco use is dangerous and unhealthy, especially for teenagers.

Q. How Can I Quit Using Smokeless Tobacco?

A. Just like any other tobacco product, chewing tobacco or snuff can be hard to quit. Only 6% of tobacco users are able to stop for more than a month. Many people try to quit over and over again. Don't despair! There are ways to help you stop. Nicotine replacement, behavioral therapy, and prescription medicines are proven to help tobacco users quit.

Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, and lozenges are all different kinds of nicotine replacement. They work by giving you nicotine without having to use chewing tobacco or snuff. Even though they contain nicotine, they do not have all the cancer-causing chemicals as chewing tobacco and snuff. They can also help you quit by reducing cravings and discomfort. The nicotine patch has been specifically shown to work. If you are under 18, you need to get your doctor's or parent's permission to use nicotine replacements.

Behavioral therapy consists of visiting a therapist who will help you find the best strategy to quit. He or she will help you come up with ways to get through strong cravings and provide emotional support when you need it.

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