Talking about Smokeless Tobacco

Over the past decades, Church leaders have counseled us to be vigilant in fortifying our homes and our youth against temptations of the world. Certainly many problems threaten our quest for safe family havens. Currently one of those problems is smokeless tobacco. The Apostle Paul counseled us to care for our bodies: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?” (1 Cor. 6:19.) Because our bodies are sacred, we have a responsibility to care for them and to teach our children to do the same.

The Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “In consequence of the evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom” (D&C 89:4). The Lord went on to identify tobacco, among other things, as being “not for the body” (D&C 89:8), and he concluded with naming great promises of health, wisdom, and protection for “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments” (see D&C 89:18–21).

In addition to teaching our children the vital importance of trusting in the Lord’s promises and taking to heart the counsel of Church leaders, knowing some facts about smokeless tobacco can help us as we prepare our children to resist peer pressure and to make good choices concerning their health and well-being.

Smokeless tobacco comes in two different forms: chewing tobacco and snuff. Though chewing tobacco isn’t widely used, a recent study by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., an investment house, reported that the use of snuff is increasing, especially among young people. 1 According to a 1992 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, the average age for young people to be introduced to snuff is nine and a half years old.

The snuff market has been carefully designed to move the user from less potent products to those with more strength. Flavorings such as cherry or wintergreen are added to make snuff seem more attractive to children. Also, some youth consider the outline of a snuff can in the back pocket of denim jeans a macho symbol. Pressure for youth to begin using snuff can be very intense.

Tobacco contains many harmful compounds, nicotine being the most potent and addictive, that are bound up within the plant structure. However, nicotine must be released from the plant for the body to absorb it and be affected by it. When tobacco is fermented to make snuff, ammonia is one of the by-products. The ammonia raises the pH level and makes the tobacco alkaline, which makes more nicotine available in the snuff. Chemicals such as sodium carbonate and ammonium carbonate are added during the fermentation process to raise the pH level even more. In addition, fermentation can continue on the shelf even after the product has been sent to the stores. All of these processes make snuff highly addictive, and it is an extremely difficult habit to break.

Using smokeless tobacco can also greatly damage soft and hard tissues in and around the mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1993 there were thirty thousand new cases of oral cancer in the United States and eight thousand deaths resulting from such cases. Although 75 percent of these deaths were linked to cigarette smoking, smokeless tobacco users are four times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonusers, and cancers of the gum and inner cheek lining occur fifty times more frequently in people who use smokeless tobacco than in those who don’t. Smokeless tobacco used during pregnancy is particularly stressful to the unborn infant.

By discussing these things with children and by stressing the importance of obeying the Word of Wisdom and keeping our bodies pure, parents can warn their children about the dangers, both physical and spiritual, of using any form of addictive substances, including smokeless tobacco. Thus doubly armed with the hard facts of the dangers of tobacco and with strengthened spiritual conviction and resolve, our children will be more likely to make good choices and to merit the Lord’s promises in D&C 89:18–21:

“They shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”Bruce H. Woolley, Department of Food, Science, and Nutrition, Brigham Young University


  •   1.

    Information for this article was taken from Alix M. Freedman, “Juiced Up: How a Tobacco Giant Doctors Snuff Brands to Boost Their ‘Kick,’” Wall Street Journal, 26 Oct. 1994.

  • [photos] Photography by Maren Younce Mecham

    The Learning Game

    Years ago I was asked to teach my son’s Primary class. The Primary president had resorted to asking the mothers to take turns teaching these seven- to eight-year-old children because together they made up a very lively class. I wasn’t certain I would know what to do. As I prepared for my turn as teacher, my thoughts turned to some games that I could use to supplement the lesson.

    The first Sunday as I rounded up my young charges, I found myself getting a little short of patience. I wondered if I could really get them settled down and interested in a lesson on tithing. Fortunately, having game-type activities as part of my lesson plan really appealed to them. The quiet ones participated, the noisy ones waited their turns, and I relaxed and enjoyed the class.

    We pantomimed the ways tithing money is used, unscrambled words and sentences, filled out tithing slips, and had a math quiz on how much tithing to pay on different amounts of money. The class time was soon gone.

    I volunteered to teach the same group again. As it turned out, I taught the class for several weeks, and each time we played learning games in support of ideas we were discussing that day. Keeping the entire class involved and participating seemed to be a good method for teaching that particular group.

    After one lesson about temples we played a game requiring concentration. I covered a picture of a temple with numbered squares and had a list of questions corresponding with the squares. We divided into two teams. One team would choose a square, and if the players could answer the question for that number, I removed the square so they could guess what temple was being shown in the picture.

    Another day each child reported on a temple of his or her choice, and then we had a team game to see which side could identify the most temples. We may not have been the quietest class in Primary, but the fun learning activities made for instructive and memorable lessons.

    One week we “turned our hearts to our fathers” as we learned about family history. After the lesson I brought out a heart-shaped spinner that pointed to numbers surrounding it. We took turns spinning the heart and answering questions about the lesson. I found that the class simply enjoyed games, and I believe they learned more as they engaged in learning activities than they would have if I had lectured. Ideas for interesting learning activities can be found in many places. Not only do the lesson manuals themselves suggest games and other learning activities, but Church publications such as the Friend magazine, the Family Home Evening Resource Book, and other sources have ideas that will add variety and effectiveness to teaching.

    In the years following I have used learning games in family home evenings with good results. The Family Home Evening Resource Book suggests many games to supplement the lessons, and we add games whenever we can.

    Teaching those Primary classes helped me discover the importance of involving the entire class in the lesson, and it helped me discover the value of appropriate games as teaching tools.Joanne Udy, Holladay, Utah

    [illustration] Illustrated by Scott Greer

    [photos] Above, left to right: Washington Temple, Swiss Temple, and Hawaii Temple