Smokeless tobacco may not be getting as much press as e-cigarettes and vaping, but it is as addictive and has many harmful side effects. The Medical Association is joining with the Alabama Department of Public Health to encourage smokeless tobacco users to quit the spit during “Through With Chew Week,” Feb. 18-22.
The education campaign to decrease smokeless tobacco use and increase awareness of the negative health effects of using these products is an annual event begun in 1989 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
In Alabama, 6.3 percent of adults surveyed were current smokeless tobacco users, according to the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. More than 9 percent of Alabama teens overall cited smokeless tobacco use in the past 30 days, according to the 2016 Alabama Youth Tobacco Survey, with 20.4 percent of high school students saying they had tried smokeless tobacco. Middle school students’ use of smokeless tobacco decreased from 6.7 percent in 2014 to 4.0 percent in 2016.
“Smokeless does not mean harmless,” said Julie Hare, Alabama Tobacco Quitline director. “Smokeless tobacco use can cause oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancers, and lead to tooth loss and gum recession,” she said. At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been found in smokeless tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people who use smokeless tobacco can become addicted to the nicotine it contains, making them more likely to also become cigarette smokers, Hare said.
Those who want to be “Through With Chew” can call the Quitline (1-800-Quit-Now) for help in quitting. Quitline coaching services are available seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. Services are offered online at www.quitnowalabama.com.
The Quitline provides free, individualized coaching to help any type of smoker and smokeless tobacco user, including e-cigarettes and vape, to quit. In addition, the Quitline offers up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches to those medically eligible enrolled in the coaching program.
For free help to be “Through With Chew,” call the Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 or visit www.quitnowalabama.com.