Through with Chew Week is happening this week, Feb. 21 through the 27th. It’s a week that encourages people to quit using chewing tobacco. Sandy Foster, the Program Director for the TSET Healthy Living Program at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, said this week is an opportunity to educate and remind people that smokeless tobacco is not harmless.

“Smokeless tobacco causes a lot of different problems specifically in your mouth,” Foster said.

Such as causing your teeth to deteriorate, gum disease, and tooth decay, but it can also cause more serious health problems.

“You get stuff called leukoplakia, which is precancerous,” she said. “They’re white pieces that start to grow in your mouth, so it takes over your gums, and then that obviously turns into oral cancer.”

The Oklahoma Hospital Association says 6.8% of adults and 5.7% of high school students in Oklahoma use smokeless tobacco, which is higher than the national average.

Foster said there are some major misconceptions people have when it comes to smokeless tobacco.

“It’s harmless. You’re not going to become addicted to it,” are some examples she gave.

“They think it’s three times more addictive than tobacco and mostly because it’s so concentrated. The nicotine in it is so concentrated. You think that you’re going to be able to pick it up and put it down, and because of that nicotine, you become addicted.”

Foster said people may start using snuff because it’s been part of our culture for many years.

“And so a lot of kids grew up thinking it was safe because their heroes did it, so they were going to do it too,” she said.

The OHA says smokeless tobacco is highly addictive, and an average-sized dip in your mouth for 30 minutes delivers as much nicotine as three or more cigarettes. Foster wants people to know that dipping is not a safe alternative to smoking.

“I think one of the things people say to me Haley is, ‘I’m not hurting anybody else,’ and I always say back to them, ‘Well, I counter that you’re somebody’s brother, father, sister, uncle, somebody that somebody loves, somebody that somebody looks up to,’” she said.

While this week encourages you to quit using snuff, Foster knows it’s not easy. That’s why she says you should call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. She said they’ll be able to talk to you and personalize a plan.

That number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can call it if you’re trying to quit smoking or dipping.