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Oral Cancer Survivor To Expose Dangers Of Chew Tobacco

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

For Gruen Von Behrens, an encounter with chewing tobacco on a camping trip nearly two decades ago led to an addiction that not only changed his life, but the lives of hundreds of thousands of teens across North America who have heard his story. Today, the 31 year-old from Illinois tours the continent, using his life story as the backdrop for what can happen when teens get hooked on "Chew". Once a talented young baseball player with dreams of cracking a big league lineup, Von Behrens, has undergone more than 40 surgeries to rebuild his face and jaw, all necessary after he developed squamous cell carcinoma at 17, all consequences of his addiction to chewing tobacco.

x-London Health Unit, its Youth Action Alliance, the One Life Crew, the Thames Valley District School Board and the London and District Catholic School Board are pleased to be hosting Von Behrens as he brings his "How Chew Tobacco Gave Me Cancer" presentation to London and Middlesex County next week. Von Gruen’s schedule will see him in London on Monday and Tuesday, then Strathroy on Wednesday and Thursday; a complete schedule of presentations follows this news release.

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While most of the presentations Gruen Von Behrens will make are specifically aimed at the student body at local high schools, the community will be able to hear his message on Thursday, June 11th at 7:00 p.m. at A. B. Lucas Secondary School in London. Sports teams are encouraged to attend this presentation in uniform for a chance to win great prizes.

"Having Gruen speak directly to our youth is much more effective than any campaign, poster or commercial could be," says Pat O’Connor, Public Health Nurse at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "His message is more important than ever, now that tobacco companies are aggressively marketing chew tobacco to teenagers using brightly coloured packaging, fruit flavouring and the incorrect perception that chew tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking."

The first-person nature of Von Behrens’ presentations and the constant reminder of the toll chewing tobacco took on his face, deliver a hard-hitting message that underscores that teens are far from indestructible and can easily have their lives, their looks and their futures altered forever by these products.