Smoking, Second Hand Smoke & Spit Tobacco

Smoking, Second Hand Smoke & Spit Tobacco


  • More than 480,000 Americans die every year because of health problems due to smoking.
  • 1 out of every 5 deaths each year are due to smoking.
  • In 2019 tobacco companies spent nearly $1 million every hour, to advertise their products.
  • Smoking and tobacco use has caused health care costs to rise dramatically to $241.4 billion a year.
  • Smoking causes emphysema, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 41,00 deaths each year among young adults in the United States. 7,333 from lung cancer, and 33,951 from heart disease.

Just what's in a cigarette?

Actually, aside from tobacco, we are not entirely sure. Cigarettes are one of the few products of any sort on the market that aren't regulated. Food has to have a list of ingredients, all clothes have tags describing the fabric, electric devices are UL approved - but cigarettes are entirely unregulated. The tobacco companies have released lists of additives to tobacco, but trusting someone who would say under oath, as the CEOs of all the major companies have, that nicotine isn't addictive is probably not a good idea. So we have to go with what the Federal Trade Commission found in the smoke that comes out of burning cigarettes. Of the more than 4,000 chemicals that the FTC found, over 50 are known human carcinogens, meaning they have been proven to cause cancer not only in lab animals but also in people. In the end it's usually not the nicotine that kills people - it's these other chemicals.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is the same odorless, colorless gas that comes out the tailpipe of your car or a faulty gas heater. In high enough concentrations it is deadly; in lower doses it causes shortness of breath and increased heart rate. Normally, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body by binding it to a molecule called hemoglobin. When a person smokes, carbon monoxide (rather than oxygen) attaches itself to hemoglobin and deactivates these red blood cells for extended periods of time. Eventually the carbon monoxide falls off or the red blood cells are replaced. However, carbon monoxide is replaced by continued smoking. This is one of the key reasons athletes almost never smoke, as over 10% of the body's hemoglobin can be inactivated at any one time.

The body is able to eliminate most of the carbon monoxide fairly quickly. Most people who quit feel more energetic and less short of breath within a few days of quitting.


Tar is the dark substance that actually carries nicotine to the lungs. Along with the nicotine it also carries the long list of other chemicals discussed above.

Benzene, Radon, and Other Nasty Stuff

These are chemicals that the EPA has said you don't want in your home since they cause cancer. Inhaling them through a small white tube all day long is probably just as bad. Enough said.


Although only one of many dangerous substances in cigarettes, nicotine is the drug responsible for making cigarettes so addictive. In fact, studies have shown nicotine to be as or more addictive than heroin and cocaine. Within seven seconds of inhaling on a cigarette, nicotine has reached your brain. The drug acts upon receptor cells providing the "hit" that your body expects. This triggers various responses in your body; your heartbeat and breathing rate go up and blood vessels constrict. By the time you have extinguished the cigarette, the nicotine level in your blood will have peaked; within a half-hour your body will have cleaned it out of the blood stream. This spiking is part of what makes cigarettes so addictive. The method of delivery - direct to the lungs and then to the brain - and the intensity of its effects, help to make nicotine extremely addictive.

In the morning, most smokers inhale deeply on their first cigarettes as the nicotine content in the blood has dropped overnight and they are quite practically in withdrawal. In reality smokers spend much of their time in withdrawal; stress, anxiety, and boredom are all heightened by daily withdrawal in between cigarettes. In between, cigarettes every smoker goes through a small scale version of what the quitter does. Over the day the smoker smokes enough cigarettes to maintain a sufficient nicotine blood level to prevent these withdrawal symptoms. Usually the minimum number to achieve this (regardless of nicotine content of the cigarette) is 10-12 cigarettes spaced over the day. Generally this explains why people who smoke less than half a pack a day are uncommon.

Nicotine also acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it decreases the diameter of your blood vessels making it more difficult for blood to flow through the body. This can lead to higher blood pressure and forces the heart to work harder. It may be one of the reasons for increases heart disease in long time smokers. More obvious indications are cold or clammy hands, as the extremities do not receive as much blood.

Just how and why nicotine affects the brain the way it does is poorly understood. While we know that it can act as both a stimulant (giving smokers a lift) or a depressant (relaxing smokers when they feel tense, or stressed). Much of this seems dependent upon dosage and current levels of nicotine in the blood.

The Toll of Tobacco in Idaho

Tobacco Use in Idaho
  • Percentage of high school students in Idaho who smoke cigarettes at least once a month: 5.3%
  • Kids under 18 in Idaho that become new daily smokers each year in Idaho: 400
  • Percentage of adults in Idaho who smoke: 13.6%
  • Smoking-related health care costs in Idaho: $508 million per year
  • Idaho is ranked 46th in the U.S. for its cigarette tax of 57 cents per pack, compared with the national average of $1.91
Tobacco Use in Idaho
  • Adults in Idaho who die each year from their own smoking: 1,800
  • Kids now under 18 and alive in Idaho who will ultimately die prematurely from smoking: 30,0000
  • Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers

Smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined -- and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes, such as secondhand smoke or spit-tobacco use.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke that is exhaled from the lungs of the smoker.

Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS); exposure to secondhand smoke is often called involuntary smoking or passive smoking.

  • Effect on lungs - Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.
  • Ear infections - Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.
  • Asthma - Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks and the episodes are more severe.

Secondhand smoke may also cause thousands of healthy children to develop asthma each year. Infants and very young children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get lung infections, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations each year.

It is also believed that secondhand smoke is a cause of low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and many fire-related injuries.

What can I do to reduce children's health risks from secondhand smoke?

In your home:
  • Choose not to smoke in your home and don't permit others to do so.
  • Choose not to smoke if children are present, especially infants and toddlers. They are particularly susceptible to the effects of passive smoking.
  • Don't allow baby-sitters or others who work in your home to smoke in the house or near your children.
  • Choose not to smoke in your car.
Other places your children spend time:
  • EPA recommends that every organization dealing with children have a smoking policy that effectively protects children from exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Find out about the smoking policies of the day care providers, pre-schools, schools, and other care-givers for your children. Help other parents understand the serious health risks to children from secondhand smoke. Work with parent/teacher associations, your school board and school administrators, community leaders, and other concerned citizens to make your child's environment smoke free.
What are some quitting tips?
  • Pick a day to quit and stick to it.
  • Throw out all your cigarettes.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Chew gum, carrots, or celery.
  • Keep your hands busy.
  • Ask for support from your family, friends, and health care provider.
  • If you can't stop, try to cut back.
  • Contact the SIPH Tobacco Cessation Program Coordinator.

Spit Tobacco

Spit Tobacco

What's in spit tobacco?

There are two forms of spit tobacco chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is usually sold as leaf tobacco (packaged in a pouch) or plug tobacco (in brick form) and both are put between the cheek and gum. Users keep chewing tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous high from the nicotine in the tobacco. Snuff is a powdered tobacco (usually sold in cans) that is put between the lower lip and the gum. Just a pinch is all that's needed to release the nicotine, which is then swiftly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a quick high.

What is spit tobacco?

Chemicals. Keep in mind that the spit tobacco you or your friends are putting into your mouths contains many chemicals that can have a harmful effect on your health.

Here are a few of the ingredients found in spit tobacco:
  • Polonium 210 (nuclear waste)
  • N-Nitrosamines (cancer-causing)
  • Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
  • Nicotine (addictive drug)
  • Cadmium (used in car batteries)
  • Cyanide
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Lead (nerve poison)

The chemicals contained in chew or snuff are what make you high. They also make it very hard to quit. Why? Every time you use smokeless tobacco your body adjusts to the amount of tobacco needed to get that high. Then you need a little more tobacco to get the same feeling. You see, your body gets used to the chemicals you give it. Pretty soon you'll need more smokeless tobacco, more often or you'll need stronger spit tobacco to reach the same level. This process is called addiction.

Some people say spit tobacco is okay because there's no smoke, like a cigarette has. Don't believe them. It's not a safe alternative to smoking. When you use chew, you just move health problems from your lungs to your mouth.

What are the physical and mental effects of spit tobacco?

If you use spit tobacco, here's what you might have to look forward to:
  • Cancer - Cancer of the mouth (including the lip, tongue, and cheek) and throat. Cancers most frequently occur at the site where tobacco is held in the mouth.
  • Leukoplakia - Whoa, what's this? When you hold tobacco in one place in your mouth, your mouth becomes irritated by the tobacco juice. This causes a white, leathery like patch to form, and this is called leukoplakia. These patches can be different in size, shape, and appearance. They are also considered pre-cancerous. If you find one in your mouth, see your doctor immediately!
  • Heart Disease - The constant flow of nicotine into your body causes many side effects including: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sometimes irregular heart beats (this leads to a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes). Nicotine in the body also causes constricted blood vessels which can slow down reaction time and cause dizziness - not a good move if you play sports.
  • Gum & Tooth Disease - Spit tobacco permanently discolors teeth. Chewing tobacco causes halitosis (BAD BREATH). Its direct and repeated contact with the gums causes them to recede, which can cause your teeth to fall out. Spit tobacco contains a lot of sugar which, when mixed with the plaque on your teeth, forms acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causes cavities, and chronic painful sores.
  • Social Effects - The really bad breath, discolored teeth, gunk stuck in your teeth, and constant spitting can have a very negative effect on your social and love life. An even more serious effect of spit tobacco is oral cancer, and the surgery for this could lead to removal of parts of your face, tongue, cheek or lip.

What are the early warning signs when using spit tobacco?

You need to check your mouth often, looking closely at the places where you hold the tobacco. See your doctor right away if you have any of the following:
  • A sore that bleeds easily and doesn't heal
  • A lump or thickening anywhere in your mouth or neck
  • Soreness or swelling that doesn't go away
  • A red or white patch that doesn't go away
  • A red or white patch that doesn't go away

Even if you don't find a problem today, see your doctor or dentist every three months to have your mouth checked. Your chances for a cure are higher if oral cancer is found early.

How can I quit?

Even though it is very difficult to quit using spit tobacco, it can be done. Read the following tips to quit for some helpful ideas to kick the habit. Remember, most people don't start chewing on their own, so don't try quitting on your own. Ask for help and positive reinforcement from your support groups (friends, parents, coaches, teachers, whomever...).

Think of reasons why you want to quit. You may want to quit because:
  • You don't want to risk getting cancer
  • The people around you find it offensive
  • The people around you find it offensive
  • You don't want stained teeth or no teeth
  • You don't like being addicted to nicotine
  • You want to start leading a healthier life