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News Release

Chew tobacco use among teens a growing concern

Dec 03, 2012
Ask most adults about it and they’ll give you a blank stare, but ask teens why kids routinely spit into pop cans or have a fat lip and they’ll tell you it’s because they are using chew or spit tobacco.
Ask most adults about it and they’ll give you a blank stare, but ask teens why kids routinely spit into pop cans or have a fat lip and they’ll tell you it’s because they are using chew or spit tobacco. 

“We are hearing about more and more teens using chew tobacco at school, in sports and just about everywhere,” says Leslie Gordon, tobacco program co-ordinator with the health unit. “The problem is while a lot of our teens know it’s going on, it is not recognized by many of the adults who are with them.”

In 2011 the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey included a question about smokeless tobacco on the survey to gauge the size of the problem among students in Grades 7 through 12. While provincially 4.6 per cent of teens surveyed said they had used chew, spit, dip or other smokeless tobacco products, the rate jumped to approximately nine per cent in this region. Use was highest among male students in Grades 10 and 11.

The health unit has launched an educational campaign to build awareness about the dangers of chew tobacco and to let the community know about its use. The campaign was originally developed by teens hired by the health unit to create messages to reach out to their peers. Dubbed ‘Know What’s in Your Mouth,’ it was piloted in Orillia earlier this year and is now being used across Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka with radio ads, billboards, transit ads and posters. 

“The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness among teens that just because this type of tobacco product is smokeless that doesn’t mean it is harmless,” said Gordon. “The tobacco industry can add all the cherry and fruit flavoring in the world to make it taste more appealing, but that does not make it any less dangerous or addictive.”

“Teens should know exactly what they are putting in their mouths and what it can do to them – cause everything from a hairy tongue and sores in the mouth to rotten teeth and mouth cancer.”

The health unit is also asking adults who influence these kids, whether they are coaches, teachers or parents, to become aware of this newest tobacco industry product that has found a customer base among our youth. One way is to look for signs such as spit bottles, a thick cheek or lip, chapped lips and mouth sores that are all signs of chew use. 

For more information about chew tobacco and the Know What’s In Your Mouth campaign visit simcoemuskokahealth.org or call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

           

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