By Tessa Willie |

Through with Chew LogoIn 2012, 80% of male high school students in Iowa chose not to use smokeless tobacco. In 2005 this number was 72%, meaning more and more students are choosing not to chew. To encourage all students to make that same choice, February 16–22 has been proclaimed “Through With Chew Week” to call attention to the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

Youth across Northeast Iowa are taking part in this week through Substance Abuse Prevention groups at their high schools. Students will be busy hanging posters, creating murals, and giving presentations. Show your support and help the groups promote “Through With Chew Week” because smokeless tobacco can cause oral cancer, especially in the cheeks, gums, and throat. In addition, smokeless tobacco is addicting. These groups work all throughout the year on initiatives surrounding the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to promote awareness and education among their peers.

I am the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator at Helping Services for Northeast Iowa, and I get to work with youth to address the health risks commonly associated with this type of tobacco. Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, as some young people believe. It is even more habit forming because it contains a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes.

Quitting has benefits, no matter how long you have used tobacco. If you are at least 12 years old, you can get free help to quit and increase your chances to quit successfully. Quit tobacco use with coaching services 24 hours a day from Quitline over the phone, 1-800-QUIT NOW, or Research shows phone coaching is twice as effective as smokers trying to quit on their own. Anyone at least 18 years old can get eight weeks of free nicotine gum and patches. If you don’t use tobacco, encourage a friend to try these services.

“Through With Chew” lasts only a week, but efforts to promote healthy decisions like this go on year-round. Tell high schoolers you know about opportunities with local youth groups. Adults can also volunteer with a county coalition. If everyone works together, we can build a tobacco-free community, nation, and world. For either opportunity, contact me, Tessa Willie at Helping Services, 563-387-1720.

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