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Chewing tobacco use up in N.D. among HS students

Through with Chew Week -- Feb. 17-23 -- is an annual effort to draw awareness to harm caused by smokeless tobacco use. The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy is using the opportunity to remind parents, school educators and the public that it is important to continue to work toward preventing the use of tobacco products among our youth.

In North Dakota, the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that the high school student use of chewing tobacco, snuff or dip is 13.6 percent, almost twice as high as the national average of 7.8 percent. Even though North Dakota's rates have declined since the 2009 report, which reported a 15.3 percent usage rate, more needs to be done to prevent youth from using smokeless tobacco products.

Jeanne Prom, director of the CTPCP, said that reducing tobacco use rates among kids in North Dakota involves changing social norms to make tobacco use less acceptable by working with the Center's local public health partners.

"Public health tobacco prevention coordinators work with school boards to adopt comprehensive tobacco-free campus policies," Prom said.

North Dakota now has 116 school districts that have adopted tobacco-free school policies that protect 58 percent of the K-12 student population. Even so, 22.2 percent of North Dakota male high school students use smokeless or spit tobacco, due in part to the ways tobacco companies market their smokeless products.

Prom said that tobacco companies market smokeless tobacco products as a way to use tobacco in places where smoking is not allowed. They also claim that smoke-free products are safer than cigarettes.

"Tobacco companies make false claims by saying these other tobacco products are a safe alternative to smoking and use brand names of their popular cigarettes to attract new users, such as Camel Snus and Marlboro Snus," Prom said.

Spit and chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer, especially in the cheeks, gums and throat, and can lead to other oral problems, such as mouth sores, gum recession and tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oral cancer is the sixth leading cancer in men.

"Smokeless tobacco users need to check monthly for damage to teeth, gums, the tongue and surrounding tissue, which may be early warning signs of cancer," said Neary. "But, the best way to prevent oral cancer is to never begin using smokeless tobacco, and if you use tobacco, now is the time to quit."

To learn about preventing tobacco use, contact Central Valley Health District at 701-252-8130 or go to www.brea to learn more about tobacco prevention. For more information, contact Nancy Neary, director of Tobacco Prevention and Control, Central Valley Health District, at 701-252-8130 or nn