Through With Chew Week, February 19-25, is an effort to call attention to the use and negative health effects of smokeless tobacco, with today, Thursday, Feb. 23, specifically designated as the Great American Spit Out. Fargo Cass Public Health’s goal, alongside the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (the Center), is to educate our community about the ways smokeless tobacco can cause harm, and the importance of never starting to use tobacco in the first place.
“Despite false claims from tobacco companies, there’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product,” said Melissa Markegard with Fargo Cass Public Health. “Smokeless tobacco products cause oral cancer, mouth sores, tooth decay, permanent discoloration of the teeth, and myriad other health problems.
It is especially important to bring this message to our area’s youth because the younger a person is when trying a tobacco product, the more likely they are to become addicted. According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2015), 10.6 percent of North Dakota high school students used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip, which was higher than the national average of 8.6 percent. Even more concerning is the use rate specifically for male high school students in our state, which was 17.6 percent. This is higher than North Dakota’s youth smoking rate, which is 11.7 percent.
“Studies show that flavored tobacco products, which are often smokeless, are especially attractive to our youth,” said Jeanne Prom, executive director for the Center. “Flavored products are considered ‘starter’ products by tobacco companies and they are part of the strategy to replace users who have either quit or died.”
Top Five Facts About Chew Tobacco Companies Don’t Want You to Know:
- Smokeless products like chew are more addictive than cigarettes because they contain higher concentrations of nicotine. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
- Chewing causes mouth, tongue, cheek, gum esophageal and pancreatic cancer. (American Cancer Society)
- There is no proof that any smokeless tobacco products help smokers quit smoking. (American Cancer Society)
- Smokeless tobacco can increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy and cause nicotine poisoning in children. (CDC)
- Long-term use of smokeless tobacco increases your risk of dying of certain types of heart disease and stroke. (Mayo Clinic)
“We need to continue educating people about the negative effects of tobacco use, so that policies to prevent our kids from ever starting are supported in our local communities,” said Markegard. “The key to reducing tobacco use numbers is to prevent our youth from picking up the habit, since 90% of nicotine addiction begins by their 18th birthday.”
Fargo Cass Public Health and the Center support events like Through With Chew Week and the Great American Spit Out because deterring people from using tobacco products reduces cancer, heart disease, birth defects, and several other negative health impacts, as well as reduces the overall cost of health care for North Dakotans.
To learn more about big tobacco’s slick advertising and the dangers of tobacco use, visit www.breathend.com.