Just spit that snuff out!

editorial cartoon by Yasuyuki Nagasawa
editorial cartoon by Yasuyuki Nagasawa

Some baseball players, race car drivers, bull riders and many teenagers all have something in common. The need for that wad of smokeless chewing tobacco, or maybe even the real snuff—the desire to get that nicotine fix. Part of the lure of chewing tobacco is sex appeal. Those big sexy cowboys and first rate pitchers are idols to many teenage boys.

A government report released last week claims that for years tobacco companies have knowingly manipulated the nicotine content of their smokeless tobacco products in an effort to get people hooked, thus insuring themselves of a steady stream of customers. Is it right for the tobacco industry to do such a thing? When teenagers are getting hooked on the smokeless chew and later advancing to the heavier snuff, the tobacco industry needs to take responsibility for the effects of its product.

How do we begin to put an end to this problem? Many sports have already taken steps to ban the drug that so many people are addicted to. The anti-tobacco campaign is evident in a number of sports. The NCAA does not allow tobacco to be used by athletes at any athletic event and the motor sports industry does not allow children to even get autographs of their favorite driver if they are sponsored by a tobacco-related company, let alone buy any related souvenirs. On the rodeo circuit, tobacco is strictly sold to people of age.

Theodore A. Breidenthal of the NCAA News reported in the April 26 issue that from 1985 to 1989, there was a 40 percent increase in the number of student athletes using smokeless chewing tobacco. The use among both male and female athletes was rising at alarming rates. However, in 1993, the study was repeated and it indicated a decrease in usage. This is attributed to the multitude of negative campaigns and the ban against many forms of tobacco advertising.

Education is the key to keeping teenagers and others from harming their bodies with such a drug. Problems such as cancer of the mouth, tooth and gum decay and bad breath are all good reasons not to chew. After all, who would want gooey chewing tobacco all over their teeth when they go to give their lover a kiss, or have to swallow it because they have no other way to dispose of it? Nevertheless, if athletes and their admirers want to take a dip, they should be forewarned.

The tobacco industry has a responsibility to its consumers. That is to report honestly the contents of each tin or packet of tobacco. If there are traces of nicotine in the smokeless product, then manufacturers should disclose that information so that the consumer can make his or her decision based upon the facts and not what they are led to believe. If this was done properly, tobacco users would know about the amount of nicotine in the product, and would have no one to blame but themselves.

Also, the manufacturers need to ensure that the retailers are not selling to minors. Pulling vending machines containing such products from public places is one way the industry has taken on their responsibility. By being responsible, the rates of nicotine addiction will continue to drop and a healthier society will be around longer and be more able to talk about the baseball players, race car drivers and rodeo heroes that they admire so much.

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