Spokesman warns against dangers of smokeless tobacco

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

Rick Bender is a living testament to the destruction tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, can do. Bender, who lost part of his jaw due to oral cancer, spoke to Portales youth Saturday at the Teens Take Control Summit at the Portales Recreation Center.

Bender, 46, has testified before Congress in support of laws banning tobacco use for those under age 18. He started using chew tobacco at age 12, and by age 26, he found himself in a doctor’s office with a dime size mouth sore which turned out to be an aggressive form of oral cancer which required part of his mouth, jaw and tongue to be removed.

“Because of using spit tobacco for 12 to 13 years, I lost one-third of my tongue, half of my jaw and considerable use of my throwing arm, my right arm,” said Bender, a former high school baseball and football player.

Bender said the three main factors that motivated him to use chewing and spit tobacco were peer pressure, advertising and baseball.

Bender said that when his parents learned