Smokeless tobacco, or chew, is habit-forming, just like cigarettes. In fact, one pouch or dip may contain twice as much nicotine as a cigarette. You may have decided to stop using tobacco for health reasons, social acceptance, or modeling good behavior for your kids. If you’ve made the choice to quit, then the next step is putting it into action. Here are a few tips to help you get started down the path to a healthier life.
Smokeless tobacco is sold in many forms: as plugs or chews, so-called spitless tobacco that is cut very fine and used either as dip or in pouches, or snus. Smokeless products are attractive to many people because chewing and dipping are not banned in public like smoking; however, these products carry the same health risks as smoking, plus a few more that are specific to chewing.
Smokeless Tobacco vs. Cigarettes
Quitting smokeless tobacco is similar in many ways to quitting cigarettes. There are physical, mental, and emotional aspects of addiction to overcome, and most users find themselves tempted in particular situations or environments. There are also two aspects of quitting that are more prevalent for smokeless tobacco users:
- For many people, the need to have something in the mouth as a substitute such as gum or tobacco-free chew is much stronger.
- The benefits of quitting are visible. Mouth sores clear up. Dental problems such as receding gums and tooth damage don’t get any worse, and a dentist can help with a long-term plan to reverse some of these issues.
Tips for Quitting
The clear signs of improving health are a great way to keep a quitter motivated. But there are other great ways to keep you on the right path. Here are a few of those ways to stay on track and cut smokeless tobacco out of your life:
- Try an alternative. As mentioned, a big difference between quitting smoking and quitting chewing is that with chew, you’re used to having something to keep your mouth busy (in a much different way than cigarettes). Part of the lure with chew is the enjoyment users get from the taste, texture, and physical presence of the dip. By using a nicotine-free alternative, you can at least allow yourself an enjoyable flavor and mouthfeel. Eventually, this can help wean you off of chewing altogether.
- Set goals and rewards for meeting those goals. Start small: go one day without chewing, and build from there. If you have a setback, don’t give up. Start again the next day as though nothing happened. And don’t forget to reward yourself with something you enjoy!
- Keep a diary. Write down the times that your cravings are strongest and how you feel at those times. Then plan ways to get through those tough situations. Most people can’t cut stress or boredom out of their lives, but once you identify the factors that lead to a desire to chew, you can see them coming andbe prepared for the craving.
- Make some other simple changes in your life to reflect your focus on health. Get a little more exercise; skip the computer games and get outside. Pay attention to what you are eating, but don’t be too strict about calories or junk food at this time. If a somewhat unhealthy snack is what gets you through the craving to chew, then consider the long-term benefits of this alternative and give yourself a bit of a break for the time being.
- Get help. Most people can’t quit alone. Your community may have classes or support groups. Check your local hospital, the American Cancer Society, or your health insurance company. Every state has toll-free telephone counseling to help people kick the habit. Telephone counseling is easy: you can do it from home any time you feel like you could use a little help or just a friendly voice. Counselors can help identify a person’s pattern of use and avoid some common pitfalls in the quitting process.
- Don’t forget your family and friends. They want you to succeed as well. Warn people that you may be a little irritable and edgy for a few days. In the beginning you may want to surround yourself with people who don’t chew or smoke. Suggest that they offer ways to keep you busy or accompany you on a walk. Don’t abandon your friends who still use nicotine, and don’t judge them. Just ask them not to offer you any. You never know, you might inspire someone else to quit in the process.
Breaking the nicotine habit takes dedication and hard work, but if you truly want to quit, you can get yourself there. However, you need to do it for you, for your health, and for the feeling that you are in control of your own life. If there are young children in your life, they may also serve as motivation to be a good role model. Don’t let tobacco make your choices for you; let your own desires take control, nicotine free.