Most kids hear over and over that they should just say no to drugs and that they should avoid cigarettes, but smokeless tobacco doesn't often make the list of substances we tell our kids to avoid. Perhaps that is why companies are marketing smokeless tobacco products directly to tweens, and why tween usage of smokeless tobacco products has increased since 2009 while cigarette usage decreased.
Around 13% of teen boys, or 1 in 7, use smokeless tobacco, although that number is much higher in some areas. Boys are more likely to use the products than tween girls. Many start using it as a tween, most often around age 11, and they are addicted by age 14.
Some of the smokeless tobacco products that are intended to target the 11-13 year-old age group:
*nicotine mints in tins that look like Altoids,
*chewing gum laced with nicotine,
*blunt cigars that are fruity flavored and can look like Fruit Roll Ups,
*electronic cigarettes, and
*teabags kids suck on called “Snus.”
In addition to being drawn in by the candy-like packaging, some tweens may think smokeless tobacco products are safer alternatives to smoking. They are not.
Smokeless does not mean harmless.
Smokeless tobacco is as addictive as cigarettes. These products are not labeled, nor are they FDA approved. Consumers do not know just how much nicotine or other chemicals are in the products, although the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that recent study showed that the amount of nicotine in the blood- stream was actually twice as great for smokeless tobacco as for cigarettes. WebMD says that smokeless tobacco usage can have numerous negative side effects and serious health risks, including cancer and even death.
It never would have occurred to me that a container that looked like a mint tin or a pack of gum could contain a carcinogenic product. Did you know about these products? Have you spoken with your tween about their adverse health effects?