Local students promote “Through with Chew” Week

Macon County youth are joining a statewide effort this week to raise awareness on the harms of tobacco use.

During Through with Chew Week, February 17-23, North Carolina’s teen tobacco prevention programs, also known as TRU, have one unified message for users: QUIT NOW.

Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death not only in the United States, but also in North Carolina.

“About 9,000 people die every year from using spit or smokeless tobacco,” said Paul Turner, Director of the N.C. Spit Tobacco Education Program.

Turner is speaking to students in Macon County this week. All grades at Macon Middle School and grades 6-12 at Nantahala School will hear his presentation.

Despite known facts of the ill effects of its use, spit tobacco rates have not significantly declined in recent years.

Among the state’s middle school and high school boys, spit tobacco use is a serious problem and is not decreasing as quickly as cigarette smoking. The 2011 NC Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS) reported that 2.7% of middle school students and 6.6% of high school students currently use spit tobacco.

“A lot of it comes from the family. Somebody in the family may have used it and others are introduced to it at an early age.”

Macon County health officials are joining in the effort warning students that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking. They’re also urging those who use tobacco to take advantage of free resources to help them kick the habit and start living healthier. The NC Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch offers free, confidential quit coaching for tobacco users of all ages at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can also visit www.QuitlineNC.com for more information.