Increase in high school use may be related
By Kyle LoJacono
Wintergreen, apple, grape, peach, cherry, vanilla and berry. All are favorite flavors for children, but they are also some of the most common in new smokeless tobacco products.
In the last 10 years, the prevalence of Pasco County high school students who have used smokeless tobacco has more than doubled.
Those numbers, according to the 2010 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, show that 3.3 percent of county high school students used the substances within 30 days of the survey in 2000. That numbered jumped to 7.3 percent in 2010, higher than the Florida average of 6.4.
“Nationally and in Pasco County there has been a rise in smokeless tobacco use,” said Pasco health officer Dr. David Johnson.
Lisa Sloan, the county’s tobacco prevention specialist, suspects the increase has something to do with the creation of more smokeless forms of the drug.
“It seems like candy-flavored tobacco, smokeless tobacco and new products like Snus are unfortunately having an impact,” Sloan said. She went on to say some new flavors can be very appealing products on the first try.
The Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale of fruit and candy-flavored cigarettes, but that did not affect smokeless products.
Johnson said many people wrongly believe that smokeless tobacco products are harmless, but said the substances have 28 cancer-causing agents that may lead to oral cancer and gum disease.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports oral cancer is the sixth-leading form of the disease in males and one of the most difficult types of cancer to diagnose, treat and cure. The reason is the substances are very addictive, but there are few symptoms associated with early stage problems.
This is the opposite of smoking, which can cause coughing, trouble breathing and discomfort of the heart.
The CDC said the first real signs are usually changes in the gums and tissue around them, which generally indicates cancer has already set in. Treatment for such cancers can result in the removal of the jaw.
The county health department created “Through with Chew Week,” which was Feb. 20-26, to help reverse that increase. To spread the word about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, the county health department worked with Students Working Against Tobacco clubs at the different schools.
Tobacco Free Florida also has a new website dedicated to smokeless tobacco prevention, www.SmokelessKills.com.
Additionally, the county’s department hosts a quit smoking support group each Monday from 1-2 p.m. at its education center, 10841 Little Road in New Port Richey. The group also helps smokeless tobacco users. For more information about quitting either smokeless or traditional tobacco products, call (727) 861-5250 ext. 279.
Information/help for tobacco users
–The Florida Quitline:(877) 822-6669 or floridaquitline.com
–Pasco’s Health Department: (727) 861-5250 ext. 279
–Tobacco Free Florida: www.SmokelessKills.com
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