TUESDAY, May 14, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- About one in every 20 U.S. teens has used "smokeless" tobacco products such as chew or snuff, and that rate hasn't budged since 2000, a new report finds.
Researchers led by Israel Agaku of the Harvard School of Public Health compared data from the 2000 and 2011 U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey. The 2000 survey included nearly 36,000 students at 324 middle and high schools, while the 2011 survey included nearly 19,000 students at 178 middle and high schools.
The students were asked if they had used smokeless tobacco products such as snuff, chewing or dipping tobacco for one or more days within the past 30 days.
Overall, the percentage of students who reported using smokeless tobacco was 5.3 percent in 2000 and 5.2 percent in 2011, the team found. During that time, there was a drop in smokeless tobacco use among youngsters aged 9-14, but an increase among teens aged 15-17, according to the study, which appears in the May 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Relatively low prices for this form of tobacco, compared to cigarettes, might be stalling efforts to curb uptake among youth, the researchers suggested.
"The use of modified traditional smokeless tobacco products, such as moist snuff, coupled with lower taxes on smokeless tobacco products [vs. cigarettes] may have contributed to the stable prevalence of smokeless tobacco" even as rates of cigarette smoking has declined among teens, they wrote.
According to the American Chemical Society, roughly 9 million Americans used smokeless tobacco products in 2012. This has raised alarm about the potentially elevated risk users may face for mouth, esophageal and pancreatic cancers, all of which have been linked to use of such products.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about smokeless tobacco.