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UM to Host National Smokeless Tobacco Summit

The University of Montana’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences recently secured a grant that will allow UM to host the seventh National Smokeless and Spit Tobacco Summit next August.

The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors granted UM $32,250 to launch planning for the national meeting devoted to addressing the health and social issues attributed to smokeless and spit tobacco use. Health professionals from across the U.S. will attend the summit, which is slated for Aug. 6-8, 2013.

Bernadette Bannister, program manager for the college, will secure additional funding and serve as lead organizer of the conference.

“As the only national meeting devoted to this important public health topic, support for the summit has been strong in the past,” Bannister said. “Smokeless tobacco products are addictive, deceptive and deadly. We need to continue to build and share the scientific-information base among health and medical professionals if we want to spur aggressive action toward this public health threat.”

Bannister said about $70,000, or 26 percent, of the estimated $270,000 needed to pay for the summit will come from federal funds, while the remaining $200,000 will come from nongovernment sources. She said the West Virginia University School of Dentistry has already signed on for a $2,500 sponsorship.

While cigarette use recently has declined in many states, including Montana, smokeless tobacco use has remained steady and has actually increased in some states. Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia and Mississippi lead the nation in smokeless tobacco use, with rates about five to seven times higher than those in states such as California and Massachusetts.

“We are very pleased to host this important forum for researchers, public health workers, and medical and policy experts in tobacco control,” said Larry White, research associate professor in the college and director of the Western Montana Area Health Education Center at UM. “Disseminating the latest research on smokeless and spit tobacco use and encouraging communication among health professionals and stakeholders are vital to making headway on this emerging, complex public health issue.”

The summit started in 2004 as a regional event hosted in Billings and attended by professionals from Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. Its national presence expanded in recent years, and institutions including the University of Texas, the University of Wisconsin and the Mayo Clinic have hosted it since 2006.

“UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences offers a terrific fit for this educational project,” said Vernon Grund, the college’s interim dean. “The School of Public and Community Health Sciences offers a master’s degree in public health and a certificate of public health, both of which help further and prepare individuals for careers in health science and public health.”

In addition to providing a quality educational setting, UM also will ensure a safe and healthy environment for summit participants with its campuswide tobacco-free policy that went into effect last fall.

More information on the National Smokeless and Spit Tobacco Summit is online at http://www.smokelesstobaccosummit.com/.