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April summit to detail smokeless tobacco dangers

February 15, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Albuquerque, N.M. — Some public health advocates view smokeless tobacco as a growing threat as indoor clean air laws go into effect, and consumers may mistakenly see smokeless products as a safe alternative to cigarettes.

Increasing awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco products and developing a strategy among experts to help public health leaders discuss this issue are the goals of the 8th National Summit on Smokeless and Spit Tobacco, scheduled for April 18-20 in Albuquerque.

The summit offers a smoking cessation workshop specifically for dentists and their teams about treating tobacco-dependent patients, who face an increased risk of some serious systemic and oral health conditions. The workshop will demonstrate how to examine patients for head and neck cancer, follow U.S. Public Health Service guidelines for tobacco dependence and how to help patients set up successful quit attempts.

Photo of Dr. Meckstroth
Dr. Meckstroth
“The dental team needs to ask all patients about their tobacco use and be prepared to talk with them about how tobacco use impacts their overall health and oral health in particular,” said Dr. Richard Meckstroth, a summit organizer and professor and chairman of the department of dental practice and rural health at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. “They need to be comfortable talking with those that use tobacco about quitting and be aware of the various nicotine replacement therapy available to help them quit.”
Dr. Meckstroth said those attending will gain a better understanding of the significant issues associated with smokeless tobacco, and have opportunities for networking with others around the country interested in working on these issues.

For Dr. Meckstroth, who has helped organize the smokeless tobacco summit since the first one eight years ago, the issue is particularly personal. West Virginia had in 2013 the highest rate in the U.S. of reported smokeless tobacco adult users — 9.4 percent, or more than 9 in every 100 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“As chairman of the Department of Dental Practice and Rural Health at West Virginia University School of Dentistry, I want our graduates to be prepared to assist those that use tobacco to quit and to motivate youth not to start,” he said.

The summit organizers hope to bring together tobacco prevention and control administrators, public health educators, policy professionals, health care professionals, dental teams, higher education staff, students and other stakeholders.

Featured speakers include Mitch Zeller, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products; and Kathleen Crosby, director of office of health communication and education for the Center for Tobacco Products.

For more information on the summit or to register online, visit