Smokeless tobacco use remains a problem

Florida Department of Health in Washington County and Tobacco Free Florida are raising awareness during “Through with Chew Week”

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Washington County and the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program are raising awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco – like chew and dip – during Through With Chew Week. This national public awareness campaign was created to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco among young people, and Tobacco Free Florida aims to help combat this deadly addiction. Through With Chew Week takes place Feb. 19-25, with the Great American Spit Out – a day when smokeless tobacco users join together to quit – on Feb. 23.

Although the youth cigarette smoking rate in Florida decreased over 50 percent between 2012 and 2016, the number of Florida high school students who reported current use of smokeless tobacco products decreased only 24.5 percent in those same four years.[i] The disproportionately higher rate of smokeless tobacco use in rural areas is also alarming – current youth smokeless tobacco use is more than three times higher in rural communities than in non-rural areas.[ii] According to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey 6.2 percent of high school students in Washington County reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2016 compared to 2.2 percent statewide.[iii] This is a reduction for Washington County from the 2012 results of 9.6 percent, but there is still progress to be made.

“While we’re proud that youth smoking is at an all-time low, the number of young Floridians using smokeless tobacco is decreasing at a dramatically slower rate,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “We need to do more to educate about the risks and deter our young people of using these products.”

To raise awareness about the dangers of smokeless tobacco use, the Washington County SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Chapter made valentine cards for all school employees of the Washington County School District and Washington County Christian School and delivered them on Valentine’s Day.  The valentine cards were personally addressed by local SWAT members and asked staff to please help in their efforts by reminding students about the industry manipulation targeting youth and dangers of smokeless tobacco in observance of Through With Chew Week.

Sharron Hobbs, FDOH-Washington Tobacco Coordinator states “Take a moment over the next week to speak with the children in your lives letting them know that smokeless tobacco isn’t a safe alternative.  Encourage them to join with Washington County SWAT members to create the first tobacco-free generation. For more information about SWAT or the Tobacco Free Partnership contact Sharron Hobbs at (850) 638-6240 x 134 or Ashley Bell at (850) 638-6240 x 122.

At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco.[iv] Smokeless tobacco users have an 80 percent higher risk of oral cancer and a 60 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer compared to non-users.[v] Apart from cancer, smokeless tobacco users can develop other oral health issues, such as mouth sores, gum recession, tooth decay and permanent discoloration of teeth.[vi] The use of some types of smokeless tobacco products is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and fatal stroke.[vii]

Currently, there is no scientific or medical evidence that proves smokeless tobacco use is an effective method to help people quit smoking. Floridians who want to quit any form of tobacco have access to the state’s free and proven-effective resources. For more information, please visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com/quityourway.