NOTEWORTHY: Get Ready for the Great American Spit Out

News from the Noteworthy

Get Ready for the
Great American Spit Out

Few may know that the third full week of February is “Through with Chew Week,” an annual campaign that raises awareness of the dangers of using smokeless tobacco (chew, dip, snus and dissolvable tobacco) and encourages users to quit for the week or just one day. In fact, the Thursday of TWCW is the Great American Spit Out, when users are encouraged to quit for the day and probably the only time chewers and dippers are celebrated for spitting it out. This year, Through with Chew Week runs from February 19-25, with GASO on February 23.

Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products are often promoted as safer than cigarettes because they aren’t linked to lung cancer, but using them is not a safe alternative to smoking. Smokeless tobacco has more nicotine than cigarettes, making it highly addictive, especially for youth. The American Lung Association reports that smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) and has been linked to the following diseases and risks:

• Cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas.
• Gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss and the formation of white or gray patches inside the mouth called leukoplakia that can lead to cancer.
• Increased risk for early delivery and stillbirth during pregnancy.

Knowing about these dangers is important for Otsego County residents because the rate of adults using smokeless tobacco in rural areas is over three times the rate in urban areas (5.95 percent vs.1.7 percent, according to a 2020 National Health Institute survey.) This rural-urban divide stems from the tobacco industry’s saturation of rural markets with advertisements, particularly of smokeless tobacco aimed at young men. The ads exploit rural values of “self-reliance” and “resiliency,” with images showing cowboys, hunters, and race car drivers, and messages extolling rugged masculinity and self-reliance.

As with other tobacco products, most adult users of smokeless tobacco begin using it in their youth, with 13 as the average initiation age, according to the NIH. Big Tobacco also infuses its products with sweet flavors that attract and addict new generations of tobacco users. Research has shown that 81 percent of kids who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored product.

Truth Initiative reported in 2019 that 49.8 percent of high-school students and 42.3 percent of middle-school students who frequently used smokeless tobacco used flavored products. Mint-flavored chew is the most popular chew. Flavors also create the impression that these products are less harmful than they really are and continue to play a key role in attracting and addicting young people to tobacco.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed executive budget includes a measure to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored smokeless tobacco. This plan would extend New York’s 2020 law that prohibited the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. It could prevent 280,000 children in New York State from dying prematurely from tobacco use.

But you don’t need to wait for legislation to quit using tobacco. And for those who chew, dip, and snuff, TWCW and the Great American Spit Out are around the corner, offering a reason to quit just for one day or for the whole week. You could end up quitting permanently. Spit it out!

For more information, contact Jennifer Hill at Tobacco Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie at For free help with quitting, call the New York State Quitline at 1 (866) NY-QUITS or visit

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