Smokeless doesn’t mean it’s safe

Smokeless tobacco products, also known as chew or “snuff,” are far from a healthy alternative for tobacco users intending to get a nicotine fix without cigarettes, according to a study published by Portland State chemistry professor Dr. James Pankow.

His study resulted in an article named “Levels of mint and wintergreen flavorants: Smokeless tobacco products vs. confectionary products,” which was published in a nationwide journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Pankow’s research, which was conducted at PSU by four faculty members of the chemistry department, concluded that smokeless tobacco has 700 percent more flavorants than most candy.

Snuff the chew: Smokeless tobacco contains more artificial flavorants than candy.

Snuff the chew: Smokeless tobacco contains more artificial flavorants than candy.

Many smokeless products are marketed and packaged similar to candy, Pankow said. His article highlights the risk of attracting young, underage customers to using smokeless tobacco.

“There is a lot of concern about the fact that some tobacco-flavored products are marketed to youth,” Pankow said. “I decided to make comparisons between those and candy.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a press release, “The tobacco industry is always looking to hook a new generation so they can replace the 400,000 customers who die every year. Tobacco candy and other flavored products are just the latest strategy.”

Dr. Donald Austin, director of the Oregon Public Health Association (OPHA), said he has worked with Pankow in the past and that his smokeless tobacco study was of great interest to OPHA.

“Smoking tobacco is more dangerous than chewing tobacco, but it still poses a risk,” Austin said. “They don’t increase the chance of lung cancer, but they do up the chance of mouth cancer.”

Austin echoed Pankow’s concern that the candy-like marketing is directed at youths, and that such marketing is problematic.

“The packaging makes it attractive to youth, who might already be attuned to tobacco,” he said.
Pankow has published more than 100 articles, and he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2009. Pankow said he believes that this is the sort of research that could reach a large audience outside of the scientific community.

“Sometimes you do scientific articles that matter to the real world, and this study has a very immediate and relevant connection to the public,” Pankow said. “It’s something the layman can understand.”

Pankow said the study “began and ended at PSU,” and that he intends to continue researching issues relating to public health at the university.

“Dr. Pankow is a very dedicated scientist on the issue and on the ethics of tobacco,” Austin said.


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