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Tobacco Prevention Campaign Urges Texas Youth To Spit It Out

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Texas Department of State Health Services' (DSHS) Office of Tobacco Prevention and Control unveiled a new campaign called Spit It Out, designed to prevent the use of smokeless tobacco, sometimes referred to as dip. The new campaign launched at the Texas FFA Convention, which attracts about 10,000 teens from across the state.

The campaign targets teens because while only 4 percent of Texas adults use smokeless tobacco, 8 percent of Texas youth use it.

"Texas teens are susceptible to the intrigue of smokeless tobacco, and oftentimes it is tolerated as an accepted form of tobacco use, even though it's illegal for teens, and it can cause cancer just like cigarette use can," said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS Commissioner. "The average age a teenager in Texas begins using smokeless tobacco is 13, and Spit It Out was created to resonate with young Texans by placing an emphasis on health risks and how it negatively affects their social lives."

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Spit It Out consists of TV, radio and online advertising, which will run in markets throughout the state in July and August. Additionally, a new Web site at SpitItOutTexas.org went live today that features interactive elements to engage teens, statistics and facts about smokeless tobacco. Texas youth will also get first-hand experience at an interactive outreach booth at the Texas FFA Convention today through July 17. The booth will feature live demonstrations every hour of the harmful ingredients in smokeless tobacco and their adverse health effects. Convention attendees can also receive prizes and play games, designed to reinforce messages about the consequences of using smokeless tobacco.

"Even though I saw friends using smokeless tobacco, it still seemed like a gross habit to me," said Austin Jung, a Lubbock high school sophomore. "At first I was concerned about bad breath and having it stain my teeth, but after I did an Internet search for smokeless tobacco, I found out that the health concerns were much more serious. I'd never use it."

While other areas of the state will receive the Spit It Out campaign message, it kicked off today in Lubbock. Speakers at today's event included Lubbock teenager Austin Jung; Barry Wilson, DSHS deputy regional director; and Tom Maynard, Texas FFA Association executive director.

Spit It Out conveys to teens that no matter its form, all types of tobacco contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. An additional key element of the campaign is to convey to teens health risks they may see early on as a result of smokeless tobacco use. Research shows immediate health effects resonate with teens more so than long-term effects. Spit It Out will emphasize those immediate health effects, including that smokeless tobacco stains teeth a yellowish-brown color, gives you bad breath, and can cause bleeding gums and sores that never heal.