Posted: Feb 21, 2013 7:20 AM by Marissa Torres
Updated: Feb 21, 2013 7:23 AM
Health officials are taking an aggressive stand to curb smokeless tobacco use among students. In fact, Thursday marks the Great American Spit Out which encourages dip users to quit.
No question Rick Bender has a face to remember and the message to go with it. The self described Florida boy tours the state talking to kids like the ones at Denison Middle School in Winter Haven.
He warns them about the dangers of smokeless tobacco, like dip, the very thing Bender says gave him oral cancer and cost him a third of his face.
"I'm basically trying to give young people information I ultimately never had when I was growing up. I had cancer from chewing tobacco when I was 26. I started when I was around 12, and then it was billed as you know the safe alternative to smoking."
According to the Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 13% of high school boys as of 2009 actively used smokeless tobacco products. Among high school seniors who ever used dip or chew, 75% said they started by the 9th grade.