JUNEAU — Seeking to raise awareness of the serious dangers of smokeless tobacco, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) encourages Southeast Alaskans to join Americans across the country during Through With Chew Week, February 19–25.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. “The use of smokeless tobacco, including chewing tobacco, is a serious problem in Alaska,” said SEARHC Health Educator, Edy Rodewald.

“Smokeless tobacco has serious health effects and is NOT a safe alternative to cigarettes.” Alaska adult use of smokeless tobacco has ranged between 4 and 6% from 1996 through 2015 – showing no significant growth or declines, and youth smokeless tobacco use had declined significantly from 16% in 1995 to 12% in 2015.

Through With Chew Week provides an opportunity to educate Alaskans about the harms of smokeless tobacco in order bring about a further reduction in use by both adults and youth. According to Brad Whistler, DMD, Dental Official with the State of Alaska Oral Health Program,

“Chewing tobacco can be an irritant to gums and lead to gum recession. The sugar content of some products is a risk for development of dental decay and, most seriously, it can lead to pre-cancerous changes in the soft tissues of the mouth and is a risk for development of oral cancer.” 

Smokeless tobacco can also cause cancer of the esophagus and pancreas, can increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy and can cause nicotine poisoning in children. Whistler noted, “National sales of moist snuff—chewing tobacco products typically sold in cans—continue to increase. Adolescents are modeling the behavior of adults, including their coaches and national sports figures. Others are using these products in situations where you can’t smoke. They are a source of nicotine addiction, which can lead to the use of other tobacco products.”

While quitting is hard, you don’t have to do it alone. Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line encourages you to make the step toward a tobacco-free life with its FREE support services. Flexible options include Text2Quit on your smartphone, Web Coach for online communications, or individual services where you can enroll online to receive a free 2-week nicotine replacement product starter kit.

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Alaskaquitline.com or Facebook.com/Alaskaquitline to start your quit journey today.