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By Traci Chapman
Tobacco use comes in more than one form, each as dangerous as the last, says Canadian County tobacco prevention coordinator Jenny Kellbach.
And that’s what a new message offered by the county’s tobacco coalition is all about.
“Through with Chew Week” focuses on chewing tobacco, thought – wrongly – by many people to be less dangerous than cigarettes, Kellbach said. Beginning Feb. 17, Kellbach and other members of the Canadian County against Tobacco Coalition hope to bring that point home, coalition members said.
“Smokeless tobacco may not receive the same kind of attention that smoking cigarettes does, but that should not detract from the fact that it’s a harmful product that leads to nicotine addiction and causes cancer,” CCaT member Dr. Bill Sharp said. “Calling it ‘cherry’ or ‘spice’ or ‘wintergreen’ only disguises the carcinogens like arsenic and formaldehyde that are inserted into the tobacco during the fermenting and aging process.”
Partnering with three local dentists – Drs. Monte Carel in Mustang, Courtney Housley in Yukon and Douglas Durst in Piedmont – CCaT members hope to reach out to the estimated 130,000 smokeless tobacco users across the state. The message? That smokeless tobacco is no better than cigarettes, Carel said.
“If you really want to know the effects of smokeless tobacco products, ask your dentist,” he said. “I know about the pre-cancerous lesions, gum disease and disfigurement or death from oral cancer.
“In fact, The American Cancer Society reports that an estimated 80 percent of oral cancer is caused by tobacco use,” Carel said.
Tobacco chew users can call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for help during the Great American Spit Out, set for Feb. 21. Part of the overall prevention and awareness week, the one-day event focuses on helping users take the first step in stopping tobacco use, Kellbach said.
“Even if we can get people to just stop for one day, it’s a start, and that’s where the Great American Spit Out comes in,” she said.