Man hopes anti-tobacco message resonates with youth

Stop SmokingRick Bender’s message to area students was clear: learn from his mistakes.

Bender began chewing tobacco at 12. By 26, he was diagnosed with cancer, which claimed a third of his tongue, half his jaw and left Bender with limited use of his right arm.

Bender, 47, told his story to freshmen at Piedra Vista High School Wednesday in an effort to help students learn from his mistakes. He also spoke at Hermosa Middle School and Navajo Preparatory School.

Students in grades 7 to 9 often are faced with decisions on whether to begin using tobacco, New Mexico Department of Health spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer said.

“I know that we specifically target that age group because we’re trying to get to young people before they make the decision to smoke,” Busemeyer said. “We intervene and give them good reason to not.”

One out of three smokers dies of a smoking-related disease, according to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health. It also was the second leading cause of death in the state through the 1980s and 1990s.

Bender used chewing tobacco, which sometimes is called smokeless tobacco.

“I actually hate that word,” Bender said. “I can tell you for a fact, right now, that this stuff is not harmless.

Chewing tobacco is commonly associated with baseball players. A budding athlete himself, Bender credits baseball stars featured in tobacco advertisements as one of the factors that led to his addiction.

It was hard for Bender to stop using once he was hooked.
“I think that stress is something that gets you going back to it when you’re trying to quit,” he said.

He eventually stopped after finding a sore on his tongue.

“It turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg,” Bender said.

Bender underwent four surgeries to root out the cancer, which left him unable to chew whole foods and relearning how to speak.

Tobacco of any kind is harmful, Bender said.

It’s a message he hopes will resonate with students.

Get rid of smoking will help you – anti smoking drugs

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8 Responses to “Man hopes anti-tobacco message resonates with youth”

  1. Yes but we all know it doesnt matter what we say, the youth just as we were once will do what they want or feel is cool to do.

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