The Great American Spit-Out occurs in February of each year as a means to raise awareness of the dangers associated with smokeless tobacco. This year, the Great American Spit-Out will occur Feb. 24.

Unfortunately, myths concerning smokeless tobacco still exist, giving tobacco users a false hope that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. In reality, smokeless tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer, which includes lip, tongue, cheeks, gums and the roof of the mouth. Constant exposure to the tobacco juices causes cancer of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, bladder and pancreas. Gum recession, disease and tooth decay have also been associated with smokeless tobacco use.

Smokeless tobacco contains 28 carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Although many smokeless tobacco users know there are cancer-causing affects, they just can't stop. Why' The nicotine in these products causes them to become addicted. Nicotine absorption in smokeless tobacco products is three to four times that of smoking tobacco products. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, so it may take smokeless tobacco users many attempts before they are able to fully kick the habit. The key is to continue trying, as this will bring you one step closer to a healthier you.

To combat smokeless tobacco use, several organizations to include the American Academy of Otolaryngologists has developed similar campaigns such as "Through with Chew" in conjunction with the Great American Spit-Out. Through with Chew, a one week smokeless awareness campaign, also occurs in February; it has a Web site that provides a variety of additional tools that help with putting a stop to smokeless tobacco use.

If you or someone you know uses smokeless tobacco, here are a few steps to take either on the Great American Spit-Out or as part of the quit plan:

- Let your healthcare provider know of your decision to quit. There are medications that can help, if necessary.
- Chew sugarless gum or have sugarless candy on hand for when you have an urge. Other munch items include raw carrots, celery and nuts.
- Drink plenty of water and use a straw to help with the need to chew.
- Create your personalized "to-do lists" for each day in advance or simply keep busy when you have an urge.
- Consider relaxation walks as part of your lunch or work breaks.
- Have an emergency support plan in place. "Make Everyone Proud," also known as UCANQUIT2, has counselors available via telephone with supporting resources online.
- Call a friend that will support your efforts of being tobacco-free.

Plan to use the Great American Spit-Out as the day that you say "no" to tobacco and "yes" to a healthier you.

Helpful resources:
Through with Chew, http://www.throughwithchew.com/
UCANQUIT2, http://www.ucanquit2.org/facts/gaspo/Default.aspx

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16