If you know anyone who's traveled to India - say, to study abroad or take a vacation - you may have seen them bring back a funny-sounding product called "creamy snuff." It's usually described as a tobacco-infused toothpaste, and, well, that's exactly what it is. While it might seem to defuse oral odor, creamy snuff can actually cause bad breath - and lead to a bad, and potentially dangerous, habit.
Ground tobacco raises risk of cancer
A good primer on creamy snuff can be found in fact sheets collected for the Third International Conference on Smokeless Tobacco, held in 2002. The report - which was drawn up by experts at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - indicates that this stuff is bad for you. Really bad.
Snuff is old-timey stuff. One of the first film reels ever made, by Thomas Edison in 1894, shows lab assistant Fred Ott snorting snuff (i.e. finely ground tobacco) up his nose, and then sneezing. While the clip is funny, snuff use is deadly serious. Scientists have known for more than a century that using snuff increases the risk of nasal and oral cancers.
According to the fact sheet, creamy snuff is made of ground tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol and camphor. It is marketed in India, usually to women, as an energizing toothpaste.
But don't be fooled - in this case, "natural" isn't synonymous with "good for you." Tobacco is a natural carcinogen. In fact, studies have specifically looked into creamy snuff and found that it delivers huge doses of cancer-causing nitrosamines directly to the gums.
And then there's the logic of it all
To put it charitably, the rationale behind creamy snuff is pure garbage. C'mon, brushing your teeth with tobacco? Every day? The resulting bad breath would be atrocious.
Yet many people in India use creamy snuff, which is often marketed as a toothpaste, pick-me-up and even sleep enhancer, all in one.
That's a shame, because the NCI and CDC note that creamy snuff use is dangerous, especially because manufacturers recommend letting the stuff sit in your mouth for up to four minutes at a time.
Put simply, this stuff is bad, and bad for you. The next time you go shopping for a healthier specialty breath fresheners, stick to the kinds that don't contain tobacco.