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Smokeless Tobacco as a Lesser Evil : Risks Make a Strong Case for Not Taking That First Chaw

Question: I don’t like to see people, especially youngsters, smoke, and I don’t like to see them using smokeless tobacco. But at least people don’t become addicted to smokeless tobacco. If a young person did start to chew tobacco, at least he’d be able to stop any time he wanted to. Wouldn’t this be an advantage?

Answer: Whether or not a product is addictive, I fail to see any advantage to using it when it’s associated with the development of cancer, dental problems and an increased heart rate and blood pressure, to name just a few of its adverse effects. Besides that, your assumption is wrong; smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, which is considered a dependence-producing substance by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In one study, the amount of nicotine in the blood of people who used smokeless tobacco was found to be comparable to that in the blood of cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco should both be avoided.

Q: I read in the papers where a ballplayer had an operation for a shoulder injury. I had the same injury, but my doctor did not recommend an operation. Isn’t my arm the same as a ballplayer’s arm? If that’s the case, why is there a difference in treatment?

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A: A professional athlete whose livelihood depends on the ability to perform requires the kind of treatment that will enable him to return to active participation at the earliest possible moment. This is not an important consideration with most people, probably including you.

With an athlete, the question isn’t only the best form of treatment for a particular condition, but the treatment that will enable him to return to competition as early as possible without jeopardizing his career.

Q: When I was younger, we used to read a lot. Today, most kids seem to spend their time with their eyes glued to television. Aside from the fact that it would do a lot of these kids more good to read a book, aren’t we in danger of raising a bunch of people whose eyes will be damaged because of the hours and hours they sit in front of a television set?

A: While I do not doubt that some children spend an excessive amount of time watching television, damage to the eyes is not one of the consequences. Watching “too much” television or using the eyes in other ways will not damage them. It’s possible the muscles around the eyes may become tired, but simply resting them periodically should be sufficient to take care of it.

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Q: My sister has trouble with her fingers during the winter. She says her doctor told her that she has Raynaud’s phenomenon. I would appreciate an explanation of what this is.

A: Some individuals experience spasms in the small blood vessels of their fingertips or toes when they are exposed to cold or even after emotional stimulation. This causes the toes or fingertips to whiten, and may result in a great deal of pain because of the decrease in the blood supply. This syndrome is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Q: I have seen members of my family taking their insulin shots, and they seem to take the injections a lot better than I would if I were in their place. Isn’t it possible for insulin to be taken like a pill or in syrup, the way other medicines are taken?

A: Insulin cannot be taken by mouth because the body’s digestive juices would destroy it. It must be given by injection so that it can be absorbed directly into the patient’s blood stream.

Q: I have been hearing about tired blood for so long that it has made me tired. Is tiredness a symptom of tired blood?

A: The condition that some people refer to as “tired blood” is called iron deficiency anemia by physicians. Fatigue may be a symptom, but very often there are no obvious symptoms.


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