The Texas Cancer Council has enlisted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman to encourage youths not to use spit tobacco, also called snuff or dip.
A former tobacco dipper himself, Mr. Aikman visited an Irving, Texas, middle school this month to launch the state's first campaign against tobacco chewing and to warn students about the dangers of the habit.
Traditionally, the focus of tobacco use has been on cigarettes, said Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the council. "Troy's coming forward has brought more publicity to this issue than we would be able to do in years," he said.
In Texas alone, 6 percent of middle school students and 9 percent of high school students admit to using spit tobacco--a total of more than 151,000 public school youths.
The nicotine content in one "dip" of spit tobacco can be four times that of one cigarette, health officials say. It also has been linked to a variety of adverse consequences, from unsightly stained teeth and receding gums to oral cancer.
Until recently, the telltale wad of spit tobacco in a professional athlete's mouth or the brown spittle were familiar sights. Now, though, as the dangers become better known and athletes acknowledge their status as role models, usage seems to have been hidden, if not fallen.
Mr. Aikman, in fact, started dipping when he was 15. He quit in 1997 because of his fear of developing oral cancer.
The Austin-based Texas Cancer Council formed a partnership with the state health department, the American Cancer Society, the Spit Tobacco Education and Prevention Network, and the Austin advertising agency GSD&m to create three 30- second television public-service announcements and 75,000 school posters featuring the NFL star.
The campaign also includes a World Wide Web site: www.nospit.com.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 19, Issue 5, Page 21