There is no such thing as a “safe” tobacco product, according to Karim, because they are loaded with harmful chemicals like arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde that the National Cancer Institute cites as cancer-causing agents.
In addition to an increased risk for head, neck and lung cancers, tobacco users are at additional risk for chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular health problems and strokes.
“Tobacco causes increased heart rate, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats—all of which lead to a greater risk of heart attack and stroke,” says Karim, a medical oncologist with the UC Cancer Institute and UC Health and assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
The cancer-causing agents in tobacco can also get into also the lining of the stomach and esophagus, leading to higher risk for gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers.
“Many people who quit smoking are surprised by how much better they feel. They experience a sense of confidence and control; they smell better and feel more relaxed. But quitting isn’t an easy feat; nicotine is addictive and the power of addiction and habitual behaviors cannot be discounted,” adds Karim.
“The best advice is to never pick up the habit because quitting is never easy. Switching from one product—say cigarettes to spit tobacco—is really switching trading one bad habit for another.”
In 2007, the American Cancer Society published a study comparing the mortality of former cigarette smokers who substituted chewing tobacco for cigarettes with smokers who quit using tobacco entirely. After 20 years, people who had switched to chewing tobacco had a higher rate of death from lung cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke than those who quit using tobacco entirely. Karim says the large population size (116,000 men) and length of study makes this a very scientifically valid conclusion that people should take seriously.
“If the health impact isn’t enough to motivate people to kick the habit, think about the social impact of tobacco use—chronic bad breath, unattractive yellowish-brown strains on your teeth, black-coated tongue, racking/bleeding gums, painful mouth sores and receding gums are common among tobacco users,” adds Karim.
Patient Info: To reach the Win by Quitting Smoking Cessation program, call 513-585-QUIT (7848).
For appointments with UC Health medical oncology, call 513-584-8500.
Smoking Cessation Help
The UC Health Barrett Center offers an individualized, 12-week program to help smokers snuff out the habit for good. Appointments are available on Mondays and Thursdays at the Barrett Center, located at 234 Goodman St. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call 513-585-QUIT (7848). The program is supported by UC and UC Health University Hospital. Other resources are available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting smokefree.gov.
UC Health Cancer Care
Karim sees patients at the UC Health Physicians Office in West Chester. For appointments, call 513-584-8500.
The UC Cancer Institute is part of the Cincinnati Cancer Center, a partnership of the UC College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and UC Health. By leveraging the individual cancer strengths of each institution, the CCC has a mission of advancing care faster, especially for those with complex disease.