Smokeless tobacco (aka chew, snuff, plug, dip, etc.) is no longer just the stuff of pro baseball players and cowboys.
Recent Canadian research has shown that half of those who used chew tobacco in the past month were under 25 years old.
When I was in high school, chew wasn’t on the radar with the exception of a few guys on the football team who used it. I never understood why someone would use chew – just the thought of it makes my stomach turn. Then I found out that it’s not just plain tobacco: it’s practically candy, complete with packaging and fruity flavours (check out the image on the left – can you even see the Skoal chewing tobacco?).
Adding flavouring masks the unpleasant taste of tobacco and makes it easier to use – seems like the perfect plan to tempt teenagers!
Since the introduction of flavours to chew tobacco and increased marketing, chew has become more common in high schools and team sports.1 In Halton in 2010, 16% of Grade 10 boys have used smokeless tobacco, dip or chew in the past year. In addition, almost half of the teenagers who have ever tried or who are recent users of chewing tobacco don’t even smoke cigarettes (a quarter have never smoked one cigarette).1 While overall chew tobacco use is higher in males, we can’t forget that females use chew as well.
Chew is a hot topic recently, from the headlines on Major League Baseball’s mission to ban chew to Hollywood’s latest hit ‘Moneyball’. The blockbuster movie ‘Moneyball’ is a great example of how chew is so embedded in baseball culture that even upon the request of Major League Baseball to remove the scenes of tobacco use, Sony Pictures (the movie company) claims they kept them in for authenticity – and that’s the problem!
It is socially accepted that chew is a part of baseball culture which provides the impression to young fans that chew is cool and athletic.
The reality is quite the opposite as chew tobacco can actually have a life-altering impact on a young person’s life. Chew contains 28 known carcinogens and the mouth sores caused by chew can lead to gum disease, or cancer of the mouth or throat. Oral cancer can impact the ability to taste and eat foods, cause considerable pain, and negatively affect the ability to speak. And, oral cancer has a higher mortality rate then both breast cancer and prostate cancer (Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011 Publication).
I really feel for Gruen Von Behrens, an upcoming baseball star who’s pro-career was finished before it even began as a result of imitating his big league role models.
- ALL tobacco is harmful
- ALL tobacco is addictive
- Tobacco and sports don’t mix
There are many groups across Ontario that are trying to make a difference and show that tobacco is not part of a healthy lifestyle and doesn’t have a role in sport. Sport and recreation organizations across the province, country and even internationally are creating tobacco-free policies or codes of conduct to ensure that their organization is tobacco-free; not just on the field but every time individuals are representing the organization.
Share your experience:
For more tips and hints about chewing tobacco and your teen, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Celina Degano MPH, BPHE has been a Health Promoter in the Halton Region for 3 years. Her work is currently focused on youth and young adult tobacco prevention. When she is not at work she enjoys traveling, reading, and being active.