Do you know of someone who uses spit tobacco and has talked about quitting? If so, the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 23 provides an opportunity to quit for a day or, hopefully, quit for good. Let's look at some reasons to quit spit tobacco (also called chew, dip, snuff, smokeless tobacco).

Spit tobacco, like all tobacco products, contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance and, over time, a person can become physically dependent and emotionally addicted to nicotine. Addiction to nicotine controls your schedule and how you spend your money (two cans of spit per week costs about $280 annually). Nicotine impacts the ability to perform mission by reducing stamina, harming vision and slowing wound healing. In addition, nicotine affects the sperm and reduces the sperm count, reducing a man's chances of being able to have children.

In addition to nicotine, there are also chemicals in spit tobacco that can cause cancers of the mouth, throat and jaw. Many spit tobacco users get thick, leathery white patches in their mouths called leukoplakia, or red sores that can turn into cancer. Spit tobacco causes cavities and gum disease (gingivitis), that can lead to bone and tooth loss. It can also cause high blood pressure and heart attacks because of the high levels of salt.

Bottom line: Spit tobacco is bad for you and looks just plain gross. But you can break the habit. According to the 2008 Survey of Health Related Behaviors among Active Duty Military Personnel, 29.4 percent of Army personnel reported quitting spit tobacco.

Quitting spit tobacco takes thought, planning and action. Prepare for your quit day. Some key steps are to recognize and manage the triggers by making a plan to deal with triggers and withdrawal symptoms. Triggers are situations, thoughts or feelings that cause a strong desire or urge to use tobacco. Like a wave, the urge will pass in a few minutes. There are three types of triggers to recognize and manage:

1. Physical triggers: Because of addiction, the body needs a certain level of nicotine in order for you to feel normal. To combat this addiction, gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in your body.
a. Cut back on the number of dips or amount of chews used daily.
b. Mix the spit tobacco with a non-nicotine product.

2. Habit triggers: The habit of automatic reaching for tobacco is connected with daily activities. To help break this connection, avoid people or activities connected with tobacco. Stay busy and physically active. Use substitutes for tobacco such as chewing sugar-free gum, sunflower seeds or use non-snuff tobacco.

3. Stress or emotional triggers: Tobacco use is connected to feelings such as anger, boredom and stress. Take deep breaths, take a walk and find new ways to cope with stress and feelings such as meditation.

Quitting spit tobacco may result in withdrawal. Some symptoms are headaches, hunger, tiredness, trouble sleeping, trouble thinking, jumpiness, constipation and feeling irritable and blue. Get medications from your doctor to help with quitting.

Use these quit tips to try on the Great American Spit Out Day or to use as part of a quit plan. The more you prepare for the quit day, the better your chances for success. Before quit day, remove anything in your house and car that might remind of chewing or dipping. This will give you a chance to start a tobacco-free life.

Get ready, get set and get through with chew and done with dip, quit smokeless tobacco. Join the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 23.

Page last updated Wed February 1st, 2012 at 00:00