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Local High Schoolers Still Using Smokeless Tobacco

Thursday is the Great American Spit-Out, a campaign similar to the American Cancer Society's Great American Smoke-Out, highlighting the dangers of smokeless tobacco use.  And the efforts are needed. Local young people are still dipping in high numbers.

First the good news: cigarette smoking among high school students in the Florida is at an all-time low.  In 2013, the smoking rate among Florida high school students fell to 8.6 percent…one of the lowest rates recorded by any state and far below the national average. However, the same cannot be said about smokeless tobacco.

According to Shannon Hughes the Bureau Chief for Tobacco Free Florida, 2004 5.6 percent of Florida high school students reported using smokeless tobacco. By 2014, that number had dropped only slightly to 5.4 percent.  Tobacco Free Florida is trying to raise awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco this week with the nation “Threw With Chew” campaign. Hughes says the state needs to do more to make sure young people stay away from chewing tobacco and snuff.

Locally, high school students are using chewing tobacco or snuff at even higher rates:

Escambia County - 6.1%

Santa Rosa County - 6.8%

Okaloosa County - 7.8%

Statewide the highest rates are in northern Florida, with Madison, Suwanee, Wakulla and Lafayette counties all with rates over 10%.

Hughes says part of the problem is the massive amount of smokeless tobacco products that are available. Most adults don’t browse through convenience stores and are not aware of the amount of tobacco marketing that is done on premises.

Hughes says Tobacco Free Florida is working throughout the state with their partners to get the word out about the dangers of all forms of tobacco.

For help on finally quitting all forms of tobacco, you can call the Florida Quit-Line at 877-U-CAN-NOW or go to TobaccoFreeFlorida.com.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.