Harms of Omani smokeless tobacco product

By Nawal Al-Mukheini

A common smokeless tobacco product (STP) in Oman is gaining popularity among adults and school-aged students. It is believed that STPs cause many kinds of cancers in humans, such as oral and pancreatic cancer. Moreover, they contain many toxic substances like heavy metals and nicotine which act as the major attractive factor in those products due to its addictive property.

Many countries with smokeless tobacco users conducted analytical and toxicological investigations in the popular STPs sold in their markets in order to assess the critical health problems associated with the use of those products and in an attempt to change the wrong beliefs among the users about those products as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

Each smokeless tobacco blend differs in its composition as a result of differing the brand, the additives and the tobacco plant from year to year in the same brand due to the plant growth factors.

In 2010, the Omani Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced a law for prohibiting the selling and importing the STPs in Oman, yet the usage of a popular brand of STP increased illegally. The blend was investigated chemically for its harmful ingredients and toxicologically in laboratory rats with different doses extracted for its damaging effects in some body organs.

The study was conducted by me to fulfill the requirements for a PhD in Biology. That sample was analyzed in Sultan Qaboos University/College of Science / Biology Department under the supervision of Prof. Taher Ba-Omar, Dr. Elsadiq Eltayeb and Dr. Aisha Al-Khayat in the period of 2012-2016.

One gram of this particular STP has been found to contain many carcinogens and toxins such as; Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamines (NNN, NNK, NAT & NAB), high nicotine (48.8 mg), heavy metals (Cr, Cd, Pb, As & Ni), high nitrate and chloride anions. also, it was found to have alkaline (high pH) and high moisture content which facilitate the absorption of more carcinogens and nicotine into the user’s body rendering the users at risk of cancer and addictiveness. Toxicologically, it was found to affect the function of liver, kidney and reproductive hormones.

Lastly, it is important to spread the knowledge among the Omani public about the deleterious effects and the harmful toxins and carcinogens in STPs.