Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas to Celebrate “The Great American Spit Out” at Press Conference

Arkansans Encouraged to Quit Smokeless Tobacco 

(Little Rock, Arkansas – February 11, 2013)  Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 2 pm the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas will hold a press conference in the Arkansas Travelers Club House at Dickey-Stephens Park at 400 West Broadway Street in North Little Rock. The press conference will celebrate “The Great American Spit Out” to call attention to the dangers of smokeless tobacco use and encourage Arkansans to quit. “The Great American Spit Out” is held the third Thursday of February every year during “Through with Chew Week”.

To commemorate the occasion, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas will bring oral cancer survivor, Rick Bender, to the state. Bender started chewing tobacco when he was twelve years old. Oral cancer, caused by chewing tobacco, halted his minor league baseball career and resulted in Bender losing a third of his tongue, half of his jaw and all of the flesh connecting the right side of his neck. Bender, now known as “The Man without a Face,” will share his story during the press conference.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Dickey-Stephens Park for this press conference,” Katherine Donald, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas, said. “It’s very appropriate given Rick’s history as a baseball player and the culture of smokeless tobacco in the sport. Smokeless tobacco is a big problem in Arkansas especially with high school males. We want to show them that it is not cool to use smokeless tobacco in the athletic arena or anywhere.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Arkansas has one of the highest rates of smokeless tobacco use in the country. Smokeless tobacco causes the discoloration and rotting of teeth and increases the user’s risk of oral cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer and cardiovascular disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smokeless tobacco has been known to cause cancer in those who have been using it for as little as five years.

Also slated as guest speakers are Dr. Bryan Whitaker, Director of the Office of Oral Health, Arkansas Department of Health; Dr. Cesar Compadre, Professor at the University of Arkansas Medical School, College of Pharmacy; Genine Perez, Director of Arkansas Youth Leadership Initiative, Youth Extinguishing Smoking Team and Family Service Agency, Inc.; and Phil Elson, Director of Public Relations for Dickey-Stephens Park.

For additional information about the press conference, contact Katherine Donald at 501.687.0345 or