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News Release

Smokeless Doesn’t Mean Harmless - “Know What’s In Your Mouth!”

Oct 03, 2013
You don’t smoke it. You don’t swallow it. All you do is slosh it around your mouth and spit out the juice every few seconds.

CENTRAL EAST ONTARIO – You don’t smoke it. You don’t swallow it. All you do is slosh it around your mouth and spit out the juice every few seconds. If it sounds disgusting, that’s because it is. It’s also extremely dangerous. People will say "at least smokeless or chewing tobacco is better than cigarettes.” But smokeless doesn’t mean harmless!  

“Chew use is a problem as more young people are starting to chew and don’t realize the dangers,” says Jacqueline Uprichard, a university student who worked on the project this summer. “We need this campaign’s coordinated approach to reach teens before they get addicted so they can make smart choices.  

“There is too much misinformation circulating that downplays how dangerous and addictive it is. Young athletes are even being duped into thinking it will make them better performers and that it is safer than smoking.”  

The Know What’s In Your Mouth (KWIYM) campaign aims to involve youth in sharing information on the dangers of using chewing tobacco in hopes of preventing youth from starting to use this tobacco industry product. The campaign was originally developed by youth working at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, and has been expanded in partnership with youth and adults across the Central East Tobacco Control Area Network (CETCAN) to prevent and reduce tobacco use in the region.  

YouTube video spreads campaign message 

A toolkit has been developed that outlines the campaign as well as activities and media tools to help youth implement and draw attention to Know What’s In Your Mouth in their school, team or community. While KWIYM has been developed to be primarily a youth-to-youth delivered campaign, the toolkit also includes sections geared towards influential people who work with youth, like coaches, teachers and other community leaders, so that they can easily partner with youth to roll out the campaign.  

A campaign video that emphasizes that using chew does not help your sports performance (another common myth about this tobacco industry product) has also been created by local youth. Both the video and toolkit can be accessed at, an interactive website to help youth, teachers, coaches and community leaders learn more about chew and the dangers of using chew, get tips for youth who use chew who would like to make a quit attempt, and provide other media and video resources to help youth Know What’s In Their Mouth!  

Leads to tobacco-free schools, teams and communities 

Once schools, teams and communities have learned about the dangers of chew and other forms of tobacco, this campaign encourages them to take action to develop tobacco-free policies for their school, team and community. The York Region District School Board is among the first to pass a tobacco-free school policy banning chewing tobacco in class and anywhere on school property. As well, a growing number of municipal and sports partners are banning the use of all types of tobacco products. 

“Tobacco use is the No.1 cause of preventable death and disease in Canada,” says Melissa van Zandvoort, youth development specialist with the CETCAN. “Young people listen to their peers and youth-developed campaigns like this are important tools to prevent them from getting hooked on tobacco in any form.”




About the Central East Tobacco Control Network

The CETCAN brings together Tobacco Control staff from six health units in central east Ontario (Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit; Durham Region Health Department; Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit; Peterborough County-City Health Unit; York Region Community and Health Services Department; and Region of Peel Public Health), as well as the Program Training and Consultation Centre, Smokers’ Helpline, and the Aboriginal Tobacco Program (a department of Cancer Care Ontario) to collaborate and share resources. Its goal is to make Ontario’s tobacco use rates the lowest in the country via programming and supports that focus on tobacco use prevention, cessation, protection and enforcement.

BACKGROUNDER                                                                   October 3, 2013    


Youth develop Chewing Tobacco Awareness Campaign

The Know What’s In Your Mouth campaign is designed to involve youth in sharing information about the dangers of using chewing tobacco in an effort to prevent teens from starting to use this tobacco industry product. 

Initial efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of chewing tobacco began in 2011 when the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit challenged a group of youth to develop messaging for their peers. The impetus was data from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey that indicated use of chewing tobacco among high school students was growing across the province. Anecdotally the use of chew was being observed among students and young athletes often without the knowledge of school staff and community coaches. 

Tobacco Industry Pushes Chew

Not surprising in the past few years the tobacco industry has been working hard to market chewing tobacco. To make chew and dip tobacco more attractive the tobacco industry has added fruit and candy flavouring. The flavours help to disguise the taste of the chemicals and additives in the smokeless tobacco products. What these flavours can’t mask are the damaging health effects that include cancers of the mouth, gum disease and tooth loss. 

Pushing Back and Building Support

The campaign is now extending across the Central East Tobacco Control Area Network (CETCAN) which brings together public health staff and community partners in the Simcoe Muskoka, York, Durham, Peel, Peterborough and Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge areas. 

The CETCAN has expanded on the campaign as a youth engagement opportunity and has led the development of additional components, including a website and toolkit to help youth, schools and sport and recreation organizations get involved in spreading the word. 

The CETCAN campaign is part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent tobacco use among Ontario’s youth and young adults and reduce the province’s tobacco-use rates to the lowest in Canada.  

Target Audience – High-school aged youth

Campaign Goals

  • Increase awareness of negative health effects caused by using chew
  • Decrease youth intentions to use chewing tobacco
  • Reduce use of chewing tobacco among youth  

Key Messages

Chewing tobacco:

  • Is not harmless
  • Causes negative health effects
  • Is addictive
  • Does not enhance sports performance
  • Is candy-flavoured by the tobacco industry to make it more appealing to youth  

Involving Schools, Teams and the Community

Each health unit in the CETCAN will be working with their local communities to engage youth and community leaders in the tobacco use prevention work. 

The public is encouraged to get involved by using the campaign materials, such as the youth-developed toolkit and campaign video or by tweeting #knowwhatsinyourmouth and sharing the information found on the website (the video and toolkit can also be accessed from the website).   

Youth, coaches, teachers, municipal decision-makers and sport and recreation leaders are also encouraged to introduce and support the development of tobacco-free polices and bylaws to promote and support youth to play, live and be tobacco free.  

For more information contact:

Melissa van Zandvoort

CETCAN Youth Development Specialist


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