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January 27, 2013

Protecting youth from tobacco

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

A recent news report says our government has prevented the introduction of new smokeless tobacco products in the U.S. for more than 18 months. This is good news for Oklahoma youth who may be avoiding the marketing of new smokeless tobacco products.

Most people acknowledge that smoking is bad for your health, but many people feel that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking. Cigarette companies are aware of this belief and are moving toward producing and marketing new smokeless tobacco products to attract new users and keep smokers addicted.

Where older men once used smokeless tobacco, most current users are young men and boys. Kid-friendly flavors for moist snuff — such as apple, citrus blend and vanilla — along with claims that smokeless tobacco is harmless have increased the appeal of smokeless tobacco use among youth.

Snus and dissolvable tobacco products have been introduced to the market and, because they do not require spitting, can be used discretely. Easily concealed, these products are attractively packaged.

Products may offer beginner strengths that allow new users to graduate to stronger, more potent products. Maybe this is why the number of Oklahoma high school females who use smokeless tobacco products has increased to 5.7 percent of the population in 2011 from a level of 2.2 percent in 2009. But the news is not all bad. High school youth in Oklahoma have kept smokeless tobacco use at 12 percent since 1999.

The truth is smokeless tobacco products are addictive. Most youth will move on to smoking within four years of initiating use of smokeless tobacco. Various types of cancers, gum disease and cardiovascular health risks are associated with smokeless tobacco use.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gives the FDA powers to protect the health of America’s children from the devastating results of tobacco use. Let’s support the FDA in protecting our children from the life-long costs associated with tobacco use.

Jerry Deming

Norman

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