Health risks of smokeless tobacco under spotlight in Mouth Cancer Awareness Week
The risks that smoking causes to people’s health will be in sharp
focus during Mouth Cancer Awareness Week.
People from Bradford and Airedale’s south Asian community who use smokeless tobacco are being invited to be screened for signs of mouth cancer at sessions run by the local NHS stop smoking service and a consultant maxillofacial surgeon from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The sessions, to be run at venues in Bradford and Keighley for Bangladeshi, Gujerati and Pakistani communities, are supported by West Yorkshire Joint Services: the educational arm of Trading Standards which provides information and access to support services for smokeless tobacco users.
In Bradford 90% of mouth cancers are caused by smoking and many people are unaware that smokeless tobacco, like paan and niswar, cause mouth cancer.
Bradford is leading the way in a campaign to help people in South Asian communities stop using smokeless tobacco. The local stop smoking service has always looked at all types of tobacco control and offered help and support to get people to quit and live a healthier life, but for the past few months they have received extra funding to focus on smokeless tobacco.
Two south Asian advisors have been employed for a year to work with the community in Manningham where there is a high prevalence of smokeless tobacco use. Speaking Bengali, Urdu and Gujarati, the advisors have worked within Manningham linking in with community groups and other health advisors to recruit and support users of smokeless tobacco.
As a result, local clinics were set up and so far 50 people who use smokeless tobacco have been supported to quit, with a 54% success rate. Demand for and access to the service continues, with referrals from GPs, dentists, St Luke’s maxillofacial unit and the local community.
Now NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds has decided to continue to fund the service after the Department of Health funding ends later this year.
Smokeless tobacco is a very broad term that refers to over 30 different types of products, including chewed tobacco and sucked tobacco. It is commonly used by many south Asian people of all ages as part of daily life, and especially at celebrations or family events. But even though it is an accepted custom, it is still highly addictive and is harmful to health.
Jim McCaul, consultant maxillofacial consultant at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Mouth cancer is increasing in men and women across the UK so anyone who has a mouth ulcer or a lump which has been there for more than 10 days needs to have it checked out with their GP or dentist as soon as possible.
“The biggest single cause of mouth cancer is smoking so I would urge people to please think carefully about continuing smoking and if you want to give up, seek help. This year we are targeting members of the local south Asian community who are using smokeless tobacco because people need to be aware that these products cause mouth cancer too.”
Joanne Nykol, stop smoking specialist, said: "We're really pleased with how well this new service has been received by south Asian communities and that so many people have wanted to try and stop using smokeless tobacco. We have offered the same help and support we give to smokers wanting to quit cigarettes – including locally-held one-to-one or group support and vouchers for nicotine replacement treatment.”
Smokeless tobacco is legal and is sold in many local Asian shops, but its packaging often does not carry health warnings and comes in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, from tins to colourful sweet-like packets which can attract young users.
Anyone who wants help to stop smoking can contact the local NHS stop smoking service on: 01274 202793 or text quitb to: 88020.