Eschew chew, group says

Department of Health Services kicks off campaign

INGMAN - Sunday kicked off the Arizona Department of Health Services' Through With Chew week.

The week is a part of a national awareness campaign designed to get people talking about chewing tobacco use and increase awareness of the negative health effects of using chew.

"Tobacco kills, no matter if it's a cigarette, a cigar, a chew or snuff, or a roll-your-own," said Stephen S. Michael, director of the Arizona Smokers' Helpline.

Cigarette smoking among adults has declined around 20 percent across the nation since 1997, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In the same period, American high school students who smoked dropped by 2.3 million, the CDC and U.S. Census Bureau reported.

The statistic has been reflected in local studies. The Arizona Department of Health Services found smoking among high school students declined from 31 percent in 1997 to 20 percent in 2005.

The 2008 Arizona Criminal Justice Commission's Youth Survey and the Mohave County School Survey, confirmed smoking rates are declining among youth.

The same cannot said for chewing rates, said Susan Williams, coordinator for the Mohave County Tobacco Use Prevention Program.

In Mohave County from 2004 to 2008, smokeless tobacco use in one's lifetime has increased from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent among eight-graders.

The increase is even more significant among 10th- and 12th-grade students, according to the 2008 survey. From 2004 to 2008, smokeless tobacco use in one's lifetime increased from 10.2 percent to 14.4 percent with 10th-graders and 14.3 percent to 18.4 percent with 12th-grade students.

The survey results are more telling, when students were asked to tell their use of smokeless tobacco in the 30 days prior to the survey.

For eighth-graders in Mohave County, there was a .3 percent decrease in use from 2004 to 2008. For high school sophomores, there was a 4.6 percent increase to 6.1 percent in 2008. Use among high school seniors was also at 6.1 percent in 2008, a 2.9 percent increase from 2004.

Approximately 88,000 adults - 2 percent of the population - chew tobacco in Arizona, according to adult population estimates from the CDC.

For those who use chew tobacco, the Arizona Department of Health Services recommend users check monthly for damaged to teeth, gums, the tongue and surrounding tissue. Any damage may indicate early warning signs of cancer.

For more information, contact the Arizona Smokers' Helpline at (800) 556-6222 or go to www.ashline.org. For those wishing to stop using chew tobacco, there are local resources. The county offers the McTUPP. The program offers quit tobacco classes at their Kingman office at 700 W. Beale St. For more information, call (928) 753-0794.