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Sarah Music

Sarah Music

While smoking rates are at an all-time low of 17 percent, smokeless tobacco use continues to be an issue in rural states like Montana.

Fourteen percent of Montana adults use smokeless tobacco, double the national average. Smokeless tobacco, which includes chew, snuff and dissolvable tobacco, also appeal to teens. Fourteen percent of Montana high school males use smokeless tobacco, as opposed to the national average of 9 percent.

It costs Montana $440 million a year to address illnesses caused by all forms of tobacco use. Big Tobacco spends about $31 million a year advertising their products in Montana.

To combat smokeless tobacco rates, the FDA recently expanded the reach of “The Real Cost Smokeless Tobacco Prevention Campaign.” The campaign targets rural male teens with the central message “smokeless doesn’t mean harmless,” and invites teens to reconsider what they think they know about smokeless tobacco use.

In Montana, you can find the Real Cost ads on many different digital platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, and on website banners and ads. Local high schools have posters in bathrooms and you may see ads at sports events. You can learn more at therealcost.betobaccofree.hhs.gov/dip

Earlier Real Cost campaigns aimed at teen smokers indicated that each teen prevented from becoming a smoker resulted in $181,000 in cost savings by preventing early loss of life, costly medical care, increased disability and other negative consequences. Initial evidence shows the smokeless campaign is also changing teen perceptions and beliefs about smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco contains more than 28 cancer-causing chemicals that can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas. It can also increase a user’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Smokeless tobacco can cause tooth decay and tooth loss. Because smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance, teen users have a hard-time quitting and often become lifelong users, increasing the long-term risks of adverse health effects.

By spreading the message of the FDA’s “Real Cost” campaign and encouraging smokeless tobacco users to quit, we can help lower smokeless tobacco rates in Montana and have a healthier state.

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Sarah Music, a Prevention Health Specialist at RiverStone Health, can be reached at 247.3273 or sarah.mus@riverstonehealth.org.

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