Graham among top tobacco users in state

By Diane Saunders
Staff Writer
Eastern Arizona Courier

The percentage of teens using smokeless tobacco products has climbed steadily in Arizona since 2004, and the highest percentage of adults and teens using smokeless tobacco are in Apache, Greenlee and Graham counties.

In Graham County, 8.63 percent of the adults and teens use smokeless tobacco, such as snuff or chewing tobacco. In Greenlee, the percentage is 9.35 percent and in Apache, 10.68 percent, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. The average nationwide is 3 percent.

In 2004, 5.4 percent of high school seniors used smokeless tobacco. In 2010, that percentage climbed to 8.1 percent, according to the Arizona Youth Survey.

These statistics and other information were shared with eastern Arizona residents Wednesday by representatives of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Bureau of Tobacco & Chronic Disease.

Bureau Chief Wayne Tormala said their visits were part of “Through with Chew” week, a campaign to emphasize the dangers of smokeless tobacco. They also offered the assistance of the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline — known as the ASHLine.

Tormala said the high usage of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is due to the outdoor activity and acceptance of tobacco usage in Graham, Greenlee and Apache.

Many tobacco users also mistakenly believe smokeless tobacco products are safer than cigarettes.

“A lot of people end up with lifelong habits that shorten their lives,” Tormala said.

He added that some smokers turn to chewing tobacco and similar products as a way to quit smoking. Often this is unsuccessful.

“Smokers who go to chew end up doing both,” Tormala said.

He also believes tobacco companies target young people through attractive ads. Tobacco products are also made more palatable for “beginners” by adding pleasant flavors, such as mint or cherry.

Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking, according to ASHLine, because it contains 28 carcinogens that are addictive and potentially deadly.

Anyone who wants to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco can call 800-556-6222 or visit ashline.org. for assistance.

See the article online here.

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