Apache County leads in chaw use

Karen Warnick
White Mountain Independent

APACHE COUNTY-Even though Arizona has had the biggest drop rate in the country for tobacco use, the rate of those using chewing tobacco has doubled in the last six years.

Apache County has the highest rate of chew use in the state at 10.5 percent, followed by Greenlee and Graham counties.

Part of the reason for the increase is that among young people and those who are trying to quit smoking the perception is that chewing tobacco is less harmful, which is far from the truth.

Representatives from the State Health Department visited the three counties this week to help the local health departments in their information campaign for the Through with Chew week which is Feb. 20-26.

In the 2010 Arizona Youth Survey it was found that smokeless tobacco use is rising among 8th through 12th graders and is up to about 8 percent. In 2004 the rate was 5.4 percent. The percent of adults using chew in Arizona is at 3.08 percent.

Part of the problem is that tobacco companies are developing more types of chewing tobacco products and marketing them as alternatives to smoking indoors and as an aid to quitting smoking. This is in response to the declining sales of cigarettes and tougher smoke-free laws.

The tobacco companies are making chew products in fruit and mint flavors and making them look more like candy and breathe mints which is attractive to young people.

“Tobacco kills, no matter if it’s a cigarette, a cigar, a chew or snuff, or a roll-your own,” says Stephen S. Michael, MS, Director of the Arizona Smoker’s Helpline (ASHLine). “It’s important to spread the message that smokeless tobacco doesn’t mean harmless tobacco. There are 28 known carcinogens in chew.”

The ASHLine has had a 40 percent success rate in helping people quit tobacco in the last three years.

It has also been proved that when they visit an area and put out information through the media, there are more calls to the line about people wanting help quitting.

It’s interesting to note that Arizona is 7th in the nation for those that don’t smoke and number one for the fewest pregnant women that smoke as well as having the lowest overall rate of women not smoking indoors.

There are many ways to quit tobacco use; the least effective being going cold turkey at 3 percent. According to the Health Department, using coaching methods such as the ASHLine in combination with medication has a 50 percent success rate. Another effective method, especially with young people is the cost of tobacco. At $6 and $7 a pack, someone who smokes a pack a day will spend over $200 a month on their addiction. This hits home for anyone these days.

For more information on the Health Departments programs contact the ASHLine at (800) 55-66-222 or www.ashline.org.

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