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“Through with Chew Week” (Feb. 14-20) is an annual effort to call attention to and discourage the use of smokeless tobacco, particularly among youth. Throughout the week, public health organizations across the country educate people about the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco and encourage them to be “through with chew.”
According to Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health and the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (also known as BreatheND), events like “Through with Chew Week” are important to counteract tobacco company marketing that targets youth.
In an attempt to entice youth to try tobacco products, tobacco companies have developed hundreds of kid-friendly flavors for their products. In recent years, store shelves feature cherry, apple, citrus, chocolate and other candy-flavored tobacco products in colorful packaging that are designed to appeal to youth.
“Studies show that flavored tobacco products are especially attractive to our youth, which is concerning because the younger they are when youth begin to use tobacco, the more likely they will become addicted to nicotine,” said Jeanne Prom, executive director for BreatheND. “The flavored products are considered ‘starter’ products, and are part of the tobacco companies’ strategy to replace those users that have either quit or died.”
Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars promoting smokeless products because, in addition to the kid-friendly flavors, these products can often be used where smoking is not allowed. They also market smokeless products as safer alternatives to cigarettes. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it clear that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
“There’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product,” said Jordyn Schaefbauer with Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health. Smokeless tobacco products cause oral cancer, mouth sores, tooth decay, permanent discoloration of the teeth, and many other health problems. “Despite the false claims made by tobacco companies, smokeless products still cause harm, and are not safe.”
Fortunately, smokeless tobacco use among North Dakota high school students has decreased since 2013. The 2015 North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)" reports that 10.6 percent of high school students use chewing tobacco, snuff or dip. That’s down from 13.8 percent in 2013.
“It’s great that fewer youth are using smokeless tobacco products, but there’s more we can do to get that number even lower,” Prom said.
According to the 2014 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report, one of the most effective ways to reduce youth tobacco use is to make tobacco less affordable by raising prices or increasing state and local taxes on tobacco products. Higher prices discourage youth from starting to use tobacco in the first place.
Another effective tactic is continued education about the health and economic consequences of tobacco use.
“We need to continue educating people about the negative effects of tobacco use, and encouraging and supporting tobacco users who want to quit,” said Schaefbauer. “That’s exactly why events like “Through with Chew Week” are so important.”
Local schools taking part in this week's education events include: Horizon Middle School, Light of Christ 7th and 8th Grade Academy, Century High School, and St. Mary’s High School.
To learn more about tobacco prevention contact Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health at 355-1595 or visit www.breathend.com. For more information about quitting call 1-800-QUIT.NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.ndhealth.gov/ndquits.