By Carolyn Calvin
WINDOW ROCK, Feb. 24, 2011
Taking a pinch, dip or sniff of tobacco may seem safer than smoking but according to health officials, it is just as dangerous.
“Tobacco companies sell us the myth that smokeless tobacco is harmless,” said Wayne Tormala, chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease. “All tobacco use is risky and may cause cancer as well as other diseases.”
In an effort to raise awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco, ADHS launched its own campaign, making Feb. 20-26 “Through with Chew” week.
Tormala visited the Navajo Times Tuesday, saying that this area has the highest rate of smokeless tobacco use in the state.
Tormala pointed out that, in response to declining cigarette sales and tougher anti-smoking laws around the country, tobacco companies are marketing smokeless tobacco, particularly chew, as the alternative to smoking.
To attract new customers – a priority in an industry where existing customers die much younger than the average person – the companies are developing products that appeal to entry-level users.
“Tobacco companies are offering candy-flavored smokeless tobacco products which are attractive to young people,” he noted.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, Apache County has the highest percentage of people – 10.68 percent of adults and youth – using chewing tobacco in Arizona.
Health officials think it’s tied to the cowboy lifestyle.
“People with outdoor lifestyles like rodeo tend to take chew more than other people,” Tormala said. “The tobacco industry heavily promotes its products to people who participate in rodeo.”
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