District 8

NSTEP Oral Health

Oral Health America's National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) works with Little League Baseball and Softball throughout the year to educate families about the risks of spit tobacco use, including oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay, and nicotine addiction.

The NSTEP mission is to prevent people, especially children and young adults, from starting to use spit tobacco, and to help all users quit. The program also encourages young baseball players to talk to their coaches and parents about tobacco addiction and the health risks of using tobacco products, including spit and smokeless tobacco.

To find out more, visit www.oralhealthamerica.org and www.nstep.org.

 

This article was written in 2002 as part of the Oral Health America campaign to inform consumers about the dangers of spit tobacco. Gruen Von Behrens died of mouth cancer September 8, 2015, at the age of 38.

Like too many teenagers, Gruen Von Behrens first tried spit tobacco at age 13 to "fit in." By age 17, he had been diagnosed with oral cancer. Since then, he's had almost 30 disfiguring surgeries to save his life, including one surgery that removed half his neck muscles, lymph nodes, and half of his tongue. Now, at age 25, he travels the country on behalf of the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) to tell young people just how "un-cool" spit tobacco really is.

"If I had known then what I know now, I never would have put a dip in my mouth. Spit tobacco seemed harmless, but it has ruined my life," says Gruen.

Why did Gruen, along with so many others, think using spit tobacco would help him "fit in?" The idea comes from the macho and rugged tobacco advertisements that try to make spit tobacco look like "the thing to do." The tobacco companies try to "hook" young users by pushing sweet-flavored products that are more appealing and easy to use for beginners. Don't you be fooled by the tobacco companies!

Gruen will be the first to tell you that just because it's smokeless tobacco, that doesn't mean it's harmless or less addictive. Actually, the amount of nicotine in one dip or chew can be 1 to 5 times the amount found in one cigarette!

Do you know what's in that stuff? Spit tobacco contains over 28 known cancer-causing agents. Here are just a few:

  • Formaldehyde (elbalming fluid)
  • Cyanide (gas chamber chemical)
  • Arsenic (rat poisoning)
  • Polonium-210 (nuclear waste)

We know that spit tobacco is bad news! How? Well, your body gives you signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown-stained teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Rotting teeth
  • Precanderous and canderous lesions in the mouth

For more information about how gross and harmful spit tobacco can be, visit NSTEP.