Through With Chew week events planned

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2015 10:53pm
  • News

Organizations across the country, including those on the Kenai Peninsula, are promoting “Through With Chew Week.”

From Feb. 16-20, smokeless tobacco users can learn about the dangers of chewing tobacco. Free smokeless tobacco quit kits will be available at several locations around the peninsula, including the Peninsula Smokefree Partnership and Peninsula Community Health Services.

On Feb. 19, users of smokeless tobacco are encouraged to stop chewing altogether.

“The whole week is preparing for that day to quit for 24 hours and hopefully for life,” said Jenny Olendorff, project coordinator for Peninsula Smokefree Partnership.

The tobacco quit kits contain information for adult tobacco users on how to receive free nicotine replacement therapy products, such as lozenges and patches.

Unlike nicotine lozenges, patches and gum, which are FDA approved, Olendorff said that Peninsula Smokefree Partnership doesn’t promote use of the e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

Olendorff said that is important to inform people that using smokeless tobacco isn’t a safe alternative to smoking.

“While it doesn’t cause emphysema and lung cancer, it causes other, equally bad things like oral cancer, esophageal cancer, gum disease and tooth loss,” Olendorff said. “So, it’s a problem. Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to using cigarettes, so we just like to help people quit.”

Smokeless tobacco is harder to detect and notice compared to cigarettes, but it’s still prevalent around Alaskan communities, Olendorff said.

The Gulf Coast region of Alaska, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, has a lower smokeless tobacco usage rate than the state average, according to 2012 data from the Alaska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Statewide, 6 percent of adults use smokeless tobacco, compared to 4 percent of Gulf Coast residents.

“We have lower use rates,” Olendorff said. “That being said, the use of smokeless tobacco has increased significantly among current smokers.”

Smokeless tobacco use among smokers has increased from 3.6 percent in 1996 to 7 percent in 2012, according to statistics from the Alaska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

“It’s a dual use situation, where you are potentially going to chew to get your nicotine where you can’t smoke — where smoking is prohibited or dangerous,” Olendorff said.

Olendorff said she hopes the information and tobacco quit kits provided during “Through With Chew Week” will help encourage people to have healthier lifestyles. Even when the week is over, she said her organization is always available to help people try to quit.

“We try to get anywhere we can get to get people to quit,” Olendorff said. “That is our mission — to really save lives.”

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