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Health and Family Services Cabinet
Be Through with Chew

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, February 14, 2007  
Contact Information:  Gwenda Bond or Beth Crace,(502) 564-6786  

DPH Encourages Kentuckians to Give up Smokeless Tobacco

In an effort to draw attention to the hazards of smokeless tobacco use, the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s (DPH) Tobacco Prevention and Cessation program is encouraging Kentuckians to be “Through with Chew” by participating in the Great American Spit Out Thursday, Feb. 22.

“Through with Chew,” a public awareness campaign set for Feb. 18–24, is aimed at decreasing spit tobacco use and increasing knowledge of its negative health effects. Like its counterpart, the Great American Smoke Out, users of spit tobacco are encouraged to quit for the day.

“When it comes to tobacco use, smokeless doesn’t mean harmless,”  said William Hacker, M.D., Health and Family Services acting undersecretary for health and public health commissioner. 

Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco can cause oral cancer, especially in the cheeks, gums and throat. Users are up to 50 times more likely to get oral cancer than non-users. Only one-half of the number of people diagnosed with oral cancer are still living five years after diagnosis.

Signs or symptoms of oral cancer:

· A mouth sore that fails to heal or that bleeds easily

· A white or red patch in the mouth that will not go away

· A lump, thickening or soreness in the mouth, throat or tongue

· Difficulty chewing or swallowing food

"The use of smokeless tobacco can also lead to other oral problems, such as mouth sores, gum recessions, tooth decay, bad breath and permanent discoloration of teeth,” said Jim Cecil, D.M.D., administrator of the state Oral Health Program for DPH.
“Once gum tissue recedes, the roots of teeth are exposed, increasing the risk for tooth decay,” said Cecil. “The roots may also become sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, causing discomfort when eating or drinking.”

Smokeless Tobacco Use

The most recent data indicates that nearly 5 percent of Kentucky adults use some form of smokeless tobacco. According to the 2006 Kentucky Youth Tobacco Survey, use of smokeless tobacco is generally decreasing among Kentucky’s youth.

■ Use by high school students decreased from 15 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2006.
■ Use by middle school students decreased from 11 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2006.

Some teens may try a tobacco product. This is defined as lifetime use (i.e. they’ve tried it sometime in their life).

■ From 2004 to 2006, lifetime use among high school teens remained the same at 31 percent.

■ Middle school lifetime use decreased from 22 percent in 2002 to 18 percent in 2006.
Oral cancer kills quickly, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. The early signs of oral cancer most frequently occur at the site where spit tobacco is held in the mouth. Leukoplakia, a white, leathery-like patch, forms in the mouth at this site and is considered pre-cancerous.

Kentucky has also been addressing the hazards of spit tobacco use with the “Quit Spit Kit.” The kits have been distributed to schools, dentist offices, and 4-H Club extension agents as part of the HEEL program (Health Education Through Extension Leadership) in all 120 counties. The kits contain an educational video about spit tobacco use and informational brochures to distribute to students.

Mouth and throat cancers are the sixth most common cancers among males in the United States and the fourth most common among African-American men. Approximately 75 percent of oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers are attributed to the use of smoke and smokeless tobacco. For help quitting, call Kentucky’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).



Last Updated 2/14/2007