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Many NU students use dip, despite its obvious dangers

By Ben Cottrell
On March 29, 2011

Formaldehyde, a dangerous liquid that is used to embalm dead animals and corpses, can be an irritable air pollutant, causing cancer and respiratory illness.

Polonium 210 is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide; a killing agent used in suicide pills issued to national spies, in case of capture. Polonium 210 is also usually found in nuclear waste.

You'd expect that Norwich students could feel safe from these harmful toxins. There are no nearby embalming centers dumping formaldehyde into the Dog River, nor are there any nuclear waste dumps in Vermont.

However, these two highly toxic substances and many more dangerous chemicals are found in every tin of smokeless tobacco, affectionately called "dip" by its users. Dip tobacco is used throughout the Norwich campus, according to a survey of 28 students by the Norwich Guidon. Students who took the survey were asked beforehand whether they used dip.

Twenty-five students answered yes to the question, "Do you use dip tobacco more than twice a day?"

When asked, "How often do you dip?" three students said once a day or less, 18 students said two to three times per day. Four students use dip four to five times per day, while three students claimed using dip six times or more per day.

When asked whether they use dip to "relieve stress, including academic and social stress?" 27 students answered yes.

To use dip, students pinch tobacco from a small plastic or metal tin and place, or "dip," it into the lower lip. Due to the abrasive nature of the tobacco leaf, and artificial materials in the dip tobacco (some brands use ground fiberglass), the nicotine in the dip can enter the bloodstream through mouth tissues.

Nicotine is the chemical that causes a high from tobacco use. Some users describe the effects as a "buzz."

This nicotine entering the bloodstream causes a nicotine high, similar to the effect of other mind-altering substances such as alcohol.

Students who took the survey were asked the initial 14 yes-or-no questions to see if they could possibly be addicted to dip; as a tobacco product, dip can cause addiction, from the addictive nature of nicotine.

Dip comes in many flavors, from wintergreen and mint, to fruit flavors such as peach and apple.

Another question asked; "Do you have a specifically remembered list of favorite flavors, and purchase those flavors regularly, according to your preference?"

All students answered yes, meaning, they remember a list of flavors to purchase, and only buy those flavors of dip. This result is not terribly surprising though, considering that a person would buy his or her favorite flavor of other products as well, such as beverages or snack foods.

However, what this does show is that if someone uses dip often enough that they have a remembered list of flavors, they might purchase and consume dip tobacco just as often, if not more than, they purchase their favorite beverages or snack foods.

For flavor and taste, Grizzly Wintergreen was the favorite by far. The favorite brand was Skoal, which was mentioned multiple times for different flavors such as apple, spearmint, peach and vanilla.

Other flavors students enjoy are straight (a sugarless, tobacco-tasting flavor), citrus and cherry. Other brand names include Kodiak and Copenhagen.

Some students use dip as an alternative to cigarettes, to satisfy their nicotine addiction. Smokeless tobacco is considered as dangerous to health as cigarettes.

When asked; "Do you use dip as a tobacco alternative to cigarettes?" 22 students answered no. For these students, dip is not used instead of cigarettes; rather, it is used as a first-choice form of tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco also comes in other forms: Chew, a longer cut of tobacco leaf, flavored, and chewed in the sides of the mouth. Dip can come in pouches as well, making less mess and requiring less spitting into a cup or jug.

A new form of dip from Camel and Skoal smokeless tobacco brands is "snus." Snus is made with steam, instead of fire, to prepare, creating a finer tobacco product. Snus generally requires no spitting.

When asked, "What other types of dip/tobacco do you enjoy?" Ten students said they enjoyed chew, seven said favoring pouches, and three said snus. The other eight students only use dip tobacco.

Although most students surveyed wished to remain anonymous, many had an opinion about dipping on the Norwich campus.

More than half of students surveyed thought that the student body was "heavy" into dip tobacco, many students agreeing that more than half of the student body has used, or currently uses, dip. While this statistic isn't proven through this survey, students also agreed that certain student groups use dip—most notably, males, athletes and cadets.

Students were asked why they started dipping; the answers were across the board. Some students said they started when they were in high school (or younger), while others only started after joining the Army. Others just "felt like trying it," and a few started because of sports.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 percent of high school students dip. And of the 14 million users of dip across America, over one-third are under the age of 21, and more than half of that third developed the habit before they were 13 years old.

While many students on campus use dip to relieve stress, dip can prove to be expensive, has been tested to contain a variety of dangerous chemicals, and has been proven to cause oral damage (stained teeth, receding gum line, mouth infections, etc.) and oral cancer.

The danger of dip tobacco is very real, and very dangerous. This is compounded by the nicotine in dip, which causes addiction after heavy exposure to it.

According to the chemistry of the human body, the median lethal dose of nicotine necessary to kill an adult human is: 1 milligram of pure nicotine to every 1 kilogram in an adult's body. What this means: it would take less than one drop of nicotine, to kill a fully-grown human.   

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