By Paul D.
Tobacco use in on the rise with youth today according to Health Canada statistics taken in a recent census. This has given rise to a new trend among young Canadians, especially those that play sports: the use of smokeless tobacco, or dip. Dip is a form of tobacco that is meant to be inserted into the lip, from there it cuts into the lip and gets the tobacco into the person’s bloodstream. This results in a head high, a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness, also referred to as a buzz or headrush. The person then spits out all the saliva in their mouth to avoid swallowing the tobacco, swallowing can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, cold sweats and other flu like symptoms.
This trend is very popular with young people in Canada because unlike cigarettes it produces no odour, is easy on the lungs, and it doesn’t have the nasty taste commonly associated with cigarettes. What many of them don’t realize is just because the tobacco isn’t being absorbed as smoke it is still packed with carcinogens and other cancer causing agents. It is especially linked to the development of mouth and throat cancer. Smokeless tobacco is also highly addictive because of the active ingredient, nicotine. Nicotine use in young people is a consistent problem that is being seen in Canada, but most youth don’t want to smoke cigarettes because of the effect that it has on physical stamina and lung capacity, this is the main deterrent for youth that play sports, especially at elite levels where they take their sport very seriously, and have the potential to have a career in that sport. But these negative effects don’t happen with dip because it is not going directly into the respiratory system, so young athletes can use it with only minor effects to their ability to play sports at the same or even above the level they could play at before.
Dip is even used at the professional level of sports, some notable hockey players and a large majority of baseball players in the MLB. One of the most famous examples of dip use in professional sports is the popular Finnish goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, former goalie for the Calgary Flames. His addiction allegedly earned him the nickname Liprusoff among his teammates. So when young athletes see an elite athlete that is using dip and is still able to compete with the level of skill and success that he had, they start to think that there are no negative effects to using dip. They don’t think about the high risk of cancer as a result of using dip, or choose to ignore it because they’re already addicted.
This is why smokeless tobacco is such a danger to young athletes, because on the surface it appears to be relatively harmless, and the negative effects aren’t felt as much as with smoking tobacco. If someone starts smoking cigarettes they can start to feel the effects quickly, they are constantly short of breath, they start coughing and hacking and have difficulty breathing at night, so they are significantly motivated to stop before they do any more damage that is negatively affecting their physical performance in sports. On the other hand, dip delivers the same headrush without the harmful effects being felt or being easily apparent. The majority of young athletes who use dipping tobacco aren’t thinking about their future or don’t understand just how high the risk of developing cancer is increased by or all the other negative effects that come from using nicotine. It is a disturbing trend that has unfortunately lead to a significant amount of people being diagnosed with mouth cancer as they get older, which in severe cases the only treatment is removal and replacement with a prosthetic mouth, which is a really terrible life changing reality that comes with cancer. Most people that are dipping at young ages do not completely understand the severity of these consequences.