More than 5% of U.S. teens and adolescents use snuff, chewing tobacco, or dipping tobacco—and that rate has been about the same for a decade, according to new research from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. In 2011, 5.2% of middle and high school kids used smokeless tobacco; in 2000, the rate of use was 5.3%. The findings, from the school-based National Youth Tobacco Survey, were reported in the May 15, 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association.
In a video interview with MedPage Today, study co-author Gregory Connolly, director of HSPH’s Center for Global Tobacco Control and professor of the practice of public health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said the fact that there’s been no recent decline in smokeless tobacco use—while cigarette use has steadily declined—is cause for concern. He noted that the government’s tough measures aimed at reducing cigarette smoking—raising taxes, requiring stronger warning labels, and banning flavors—did not carry over to smokeless tobacco.
“We have to treat all tobacco products alike,” Connolly said. “Otherwise we see this switching of youngsters away from cigarette smoking to combined use of smokeless tobacco and cigarettes, and that is not going to reduce the disease risk in our nation from tobacco.”