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A Pinch of Bug Killer
Photo: Mike Rose
I used to use chewing tobacco; as insecticide. I mixed it with water, and let it steep like sun tea. It works, but was too risky. Makers sweeten chewing tobacco with sugar, so you do not gag on the bitter taste. The leftover juice is sweet, attractive to toddlers and pets. A mixture strong enough to kill bugs can send a family hound that laps it up to the fireplug in the sky.

Chewing tobacco also contains polonium 210 (a radioactive chemical produced as waste in nuclear power plants), formaldehyde (a toxic chemical used for embalming fluid), and nitrosamines (cancer-causing preservatives).

Still plan to chew some bug killer? Chewing tobacco will not kill you the way it would a leaf-cutter – instantly, that is. Instead, it may mess up your face. Chewing tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer. It damages teeth. It causes heart problems.

The nastiest thing about chewing tobacco is oral cancer. Oral cancer spreads faster than a tobacco juice stain on a white shirt into gums, tongue, lips, cheeks – even bone. To stop it you cut out the affected parts, and hope you get all of it. Miss a patch, and it starts spreading again.

The doctors will have to cut out your gums, a tooth or two, your cheeks, your tongue, and your jawbone. That might make it hard to enjoy a pizza. Or whistle a happy tune. You will make an impression on the opposite sex if you are missing a chunk of your jaw. Not necessarily the impression you want, but everyone will remember you. It could be the start of an acting career. You can skip the trip to special effects to play an orc.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer takes as little as six years to appear after you start chewing. Begin in junior high and by the time you get to college you could have a full-blown case. Early signs of oral cancer include mouth sores and ulcers that bleed easily, and do not heal; white patches inside your mouth; swelling or lumps in your mouth; and pain or stiffness when you use your jaw. Determined to chew bug killer? Schedule dental checkups quarterly, to catch oral cancer early.

Chewing tobacco produces gum problems. It causes the gums to recede. Receding gums looks ugly.They increase the risk of cavities.  The gums fail to protect the teeth. Once the gums recede, they rarely recover.  The vampire look will be yours forever.

You get more cavities, too.  The sugar in chewing tobacco mixed with the saliva produced in your mouth makes the perfect environment for decay bacteria.  They grow faster than the mold on that science-fair project you forgot in the back of your refrigerator.  Add in the effects of receding gums, and you have a good shot at earning the nickname “metal mouth.”

I could list other, less serious, reasons for avoiding chewing tobacco.  Your teeth get so stained from chewing that you blend into sand dunes when you smile.  It is expensive.  It comes back to this.  Why would anyone want to put a wad of bug killer in his mouth, chew it, and think it is cool?

(A longer version of this article appeared in Listen Magazine, Sept. 2004)

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Written by Mark N Lardas, copyright 2006, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Listen, September 2004. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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