By Margaret Steele
THURSDAY, June 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Cigarette smoking continues to decline among Americans who work, but use of smokeless tobacco — a known cause of cancer — has held steady since 2005, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
Certain types of jobs — construction and mining, especially — are hotbeds of smokeless tobacco use, according to a study conducted by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Looking at tobacco use over five years, the researchers found a decline in cigarette smoking among working adults — from about 22 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2010. But use of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and snuff inched up slightly — from 2.7 percent in 2005 to 3 percent in 2010.
“These findings can help health professionals direct assistance to working men and women to stop using smokeless tobacco, a known cause of oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancer,” the researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The CDC called on employers to try to snuff out all forms of tobacco use.
New smokeless tobacco products such as snus (finely ground moist snuff) and candy-flavored dissolvable tobacco, combined with increased marketing, might explain smokeless tobacco’s steady use, the CDC authors said. However, snus and some other products weren’t included in the questionnaire so it’s possible smokeless tobacco use is underestimated, study author Dr. Jacek Mazurek, of the division of respiratory disease studies, and colleagues noted.
Chewing tobacco and snuff aren’t safe, research has shown. These products may contain more nicotine than cigarettes, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Nicotine is highly addictive, which is why it’s so hard to quit smoking.
For the report, researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey.
About 19 percent of mining workers acknowledged use of smokeless tobacco, the survey found.
Adults involved in oil and gas extraction also reported heavy use of smokeless tobacco, with about 11 percent using the products, according to the study published in the June 6 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The percentage of cigarette smokers who also use smokeless tobacco was relatively unchanged during the study period — about 4 percent, the researchers said.
Employers can step up efforts to curb smokeless tobacco use, the CDC suggested.
Making workplaces tobacco-free, offering information on the health risks of tobacco and the benefits of quitting can help reduce these destructive habits. Promoting work-based tobacco-cessation services, including health insurance that covers treatment for tobacco dependence, is another valuable aid, the CDC report said.
The finding that 3 percent of working adults used smokeless tobacco in 2010 indicates that much work is needed to meet the Healthy People 2020 target of 0.3 percent or less for U.S. adults.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about smokeless tobacco.