Speaker educates Lennox students about dangers of chewing tobacc - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Speaker educates Lennox students about dangers of chewing tobacco

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Some Lennox and Tea middle schoolers have new advice to chew on when it come to tobacco.

Rick Bender first asked a group of Lennox middle schoolers if they had ever tried tobacco—he didn't receive a decent response. So, Bender asked students if they know anyone who uses tobacco—a lot of hands came up.

Bender called himself "The man with half a face." For the past 20 years, Bender has traveled the country warning people about the dangers of tobacco—specifically chew.

"The day you start using tobacco of any kind you put yourself at risk of cancer," Bender said.

Bender started chewing at the age of 12. At the age of 26 he was diagnosed with oral cancer and doctors told him he had only two years to live.

"This type of cancer is aggressive, very fast growing and the younger you are the faster it grows," Bender said.

Bender lost a third of his tongue, half his jaw and partial use of his right arm. He said he uses his experience not to preach but to educate—to which at least one student responded well.

"I like how he informed everybody about everything he had to go through," 8th grader Mason Meyers said. "It's important that he could tell his story about what he went through, and everything about his cancer, and all the treatments he went through and all his surgeries."

While it might just be one student, for Bender it is still worth it.

"When you get some kid that comes up to you and says, ‘I'm never going to touch this stuff,' you bet it's worth it," Bender said.  

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