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Annual Through with Chew Week starts next week

The annual Through with Chew Week, which will be held Feb. 16-22, promotes a tobacco-free lifestyle by educating people about the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco.

Central Valley Health District and the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy are using this occasion to educate the public, particularly the youth, about the dangers of tobacco use and encouraging them to live tobacco-free by never starting to use any tobacco product.

The 2013 North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 13.8 percent of high school students use chewing tobacco, snuff or dip. That number is just slightly up from the 13.6 percent reported in 2011, but it illustrates the reasons that more needs to be done to prevent youth from using smokeless tobacco products, the center said.

One of the reasons for the increase is that more tobacco companies are investing in smokeless tobacco products, like chew or snus, that can be used in places where smoking is not allowed, the center said. Unlike cigarettes, these products are easily concealed and can be used throughout the day. And tobacco companies are spending millions of dollars every year to market candy-flavored products to the younger generation in an attempt to attract a new generation of tobacco users.

“There are now more candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products on the market than ever before, including chew, dip and other smokeless products,” said Jeanne Prom, executive director for the center. “That’s why the center has been educating the public about tobacco marketing, so our youth aren’t taken in by colorful packages or fruit-flavored tobacco.”

Tobacco companies also market smokeless products as safer alternatives to cigarettes. However, smokeless tobacco causes a number of health problems, including oral cancer, mouth sores, tooth decay and permanent discoloration of the teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokeless tobacco is more addicting than cigarettes because it contains a higher concentration of nicotine.

“It’s essential that people understand the harmful effects caused by smokeless tobacco so they either don’t start or quit. That’s what Through with Chew Week is all about,” said Nancy Neary, tobacco prevention coordinator for Central Valley Health District.

To learn more about smokeless tobacco and preventing tobacco use, contact Central Valley Health District at 252-8130, or visit www.breathend. com.