By Tamera Manzanares
It’s spring break, and you’re sitting on a quiet beach, absorbing the sun’s rays and sweet ocean air. You’ve got a wad in your cheek and a spit bottle by your chair. Kind of ruins the picture, doesn’t it?
Being free to enjoy life without the urge to dip is a good reason to quit chew. It’s also nice to smile for the camera without being self-conscious about stained teeth, mouth sores and receding gums. Perhaps even more persuasive are the cancers – oral, esophageal, stomach and pancreatic – that can occur from continually using smokeless tobacco.
The consequences of smokeless tobacco have been overshadowed by the cigarette industry, which is bigger and has attracted more scrutiny. Many people mistakenly think smokeless tobacco, because it isn’t burned, is safer than smoking. They may even associate it with being athletic and masculine. These images are perpetuated by tobacco advertising, which often is targeted at youth.
Through with Chew week Feb. 15 through Feb. 21, followed by the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 23 aim to bring awareness to the benefits of quitting smokeless tobacco and the support and strategies available to help a person quit for good.
There are two main types of smokeless tobacco. Chewing tobacco is loose leaves, plugs or twists of rope. Snuff or snus is finely cut powdered tobacco available loose, in dissolvable lozenges or strips or in small pouches. Smokeless tobacco is held behind the upper or lower lip where the nicotine absorbs into the lining of the mouth.
Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. The most harmful of these are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, formed during the growing, curing, fermenting and aging of the tobacco. Other chemicals include formaldehyde, arsenic and a radioactive element found in tobacco fertilizer.
Perhaps even more concerning is the amount of nicotine in smokeless tobacco – about three to four times the amount in a cigarette. Nicotine addiction is powerful. A person’s body becomes dependent on the physical effects of nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, needing more and more as a person continues to use smokeless tobacco.
Nicotine reaches the brain quickly, causing pleasant feelings that distract a person from stress and encourage a continuous physical and mental/emotional urge to smoke or use tobacco. It also stays in the blood of a smokeless tobacco user longer than that of smokers. Whether you use smokeless tobacco or smoke cigarettes, the prospect of quitting can be overwhelming. Having support and guidance and making a quit plan to cope with the complex aspects of nicotine addiction can significantly improve a person’s chances of quitting.
The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers free one-on-one counseling with a Tobacco Cessation Counselor and other quit tools, including phone, online and text support. CLICK HERE for more information.
CLICK HERE for tips on quitting smokeless tobacco.
This post includes information from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.