Health and Family Services Cabinet
DPH Encourages Public to be ‘Through with Chew’
Feb. 12-18 Designated for Smokeless Tobacco Awareness Campaign
In an effort to curb spit 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 on Thursday, Feb. 16.
The “Through with Chew” public awareness campaign is set for Feb. 12-18, to decrease spit tobacco use among adults and youth. Like its counterpart, the Great American SmokeOut, users of spit tobacco are encouraged to quit for the day.
"Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, as some people believe, and it is even more habit-forming because it contains a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes,” said Irene Centers, program manager for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. “We need to get this message out. Too many people see this as a substitute for smoking.”
Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products, which are primarily sold as chewing tobacco and snuff, contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Use of smokeless tobacco products has been linked to oral cancer, especially in the cheeks, gums and throat.
According to DPH, smokeless tobacco users are up to 50 times more likely to get oral cancer than nonusers, and only one-half of people diagnosed with oral cancer are still living five years after diagnosis.
"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 DPH Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “This is a great health concern because once gum tissue recedes, the roots of teeth are exposed, increasing the risk for tooth decay. The roots may also become sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, causing discomfort when eating or drinking.”
DPH cautions users that oral cancer can develop within five years of using smokeless tobacco products. Cancer warning signs include sores that bleed easily and will not heal; a lump in the mouth or neck; or trouble chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw.
“Our office has created and distributes oral cancer self-screening kits,” said Centers, who advises spit tobacco users to check for cancer warning signs monthly.
The kits are available by contacting Centers at Irene.Centers@ky.gov or the tobacco coordinator in your local health department. These kits were made available through a partnership between DPH and the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.
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.
The “Through with Chew” program was established in 1989 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology and has been held in states and communities across the nation.
For help quitting, call toll free (800)-QUITNOW or the tobacco coordinator in your local health department.