LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- This week is dedicated to helping those who use chewing tobacco quit. And while Arkansas has one of the highest rates of smokeless tobacco use in the country, there are lots of resources to help.
Thursday, February 21, is Great American Spit Out Day. Dr. S.B. Whitaker, Director of the Office of Oral Health at the Arkansas Department of Health stops by "THV 11 News This Morning" to talk more.
Dr. Whitaker is well-versed in the dangers of smokeless tobacco use and the health care problems it can cause.
In fact, smokeless tobacco use can:
• Cause gum disease and nicotine addiction.
• Cause leukoplakia, a disease of the mouth. Leukoplakia can lead to oral cancer, which occurs in more than half of all smokeless tobacco users in the first three years of use.
• Cause cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach and pancreas due to the constant exposure to tobacco juice.
Sadly, smokeless tobacco use is a very real issue in Arkansas. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Arkansas has one of the highest rates of smokeless tobacco use in the country. Key facts about tobacco use in Arkansas include:
• 20.3 percent of male high school students in Arkansas use smokeless or spit tobacco.
• In 2010, 6.8 percent of all students in Arkansas reported first using smokeless tobacco before the age of eleven.
• In 2010, 30.5 percent of current smokeless tobacco users reported first using it before age eleven.
Fortunately, we have a resource here in Arkansas to help smokeless users quit. Users can call The Arkansas Tobacco Quitline, which can be reached by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, to receive free motivational counseling with a trained Quit Coach and free nicotine-replacement therapy medications while supplies last.
The Quitline is available seven days a week 24 hours a day, and services are available in English, Spanish, Marshallese and additional languages if needed.
Counseling is tailored to the specific needs of the tobacco user.