Tobacco Use and Health Risks

Tobacco Use and Health Risks in South Asian Population

In New Jersey, the cancer screening rates in the Asian Indian population is well below the national average. Tobacco users, in many forms, have a higher incidence of oral cancer. Those who use combustible tobacco increase their risk for lung cancer. South Asian males and those from India have higher rates of smokeless tobacco use compared to other subpopulations in New Jersey who use smokeless tobacco, putting them at increased risk for cancer and other serious health problems, according to recent research conducted by the Center for Tobacco Studies at Rutgers School of Public Health.
The most common forms of smokeless (or chewing) tobacco used in the South Asian population include Paan, Paan masala, Supari, Zadra, Betel quid, and Gutka.
Betel quid is synonymous with ‘pan’ or ‘paan’ and generally contains betel leaf, areca nut, and slaked lime, and may contain tobacco. There is conclusive evidence that betel quit increases the risk of oral cancer (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2004).
Health effects linked to these forms of tobacco include oral cancer, pancreatic cancer and oral diseases such as periodontal disease. Additionally, there are increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, reproductive health effects and overall mortality.
Bidis are another traditional tobacco product which are small, thin, hand-rolled cigarettes imported to the United States, primarily from India and other Southeast Asian countries. They comprise tobacco wrapped in a tendu or temburni leaf (plants native to Asia) and may be secured with a colorful string at one or both ends. Bidis can be flavored (e.g., chocolate, cherry, mango) or unflavored.
Kreteks, sometimes referred to as clove cigarettes, are imported from Indonesia and typically contain a mixture of tobacco, cloves, and other additives. Bidis and Kreteks have higher concentrations of nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide than conventional cigarettes sold in the United States. Neither bidis nor Kreteks are safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Finally, some younger South Asians are using Hookah as a popular tobacco product. Of course, in other situations, some tobacco users are “dual users,” using at least two forms of tobacco. See the accompanying table for more specific definitions of common South Asian Tobacco-related products.
The Tobacco Quit center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset treats all forms of tobacco use, such as traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products and other forms of tobacco including cigarillos and e-cigarettes/vaping. Many users of all of these tobacco products demonstrate signs and symptoms of tobacco dependence and can benefit from the
Tobacco Quit center services which provide one-on-one or group counseling for habit change techniques and also use the latest and safest combinations of quitting medications.
The FDA approved quitting medications, such as nicotine lozenges and patches, as well as some non-nicotine pills shrink physical cravings and help patients manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, concentration problems and irritability, which can be temporarily experienced during the process of quitting tobacco. These quitting medications are often used for 1 to 4 months in conjunction with specialized counseling to give tobacco users the highest chance to quit for good.

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