The Birmingham News features a story that highlights a disturbing trend among Alabama teens - the increasing use of smokeless tobacco products. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, about 19 percent of high school boys in Alabama use dip, chew or other such products. The national average among this same age group is 12 to 15 percent.
This statistic is extremely concerning for many reasons. One is that if someone becomes addicted to tobacco at a young age, he or she is more likely to become addicted for life. This greatly increases their cancer risk, as smokeless tobacco can lead to cancers of the throat, mouth, larynx and stomach.
Another cause for concern is the misinformation surrounding smokeless tobacco. While we have made great strides in educating people about the dangers of cigarettes - and decreased the number of smokers in the process - many people believe that smokeless tobacco is less addictive and less harmful than cigarettes. Reports, most recently one by the Surgeon General, have shown that this is definitely not the case.
With April being Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage you to educate yourself and your children about the dangers of both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes by visiting the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and UAB Medicine websites. And when it comes to these products, remember to just say NO.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.