By Wendy LaRoche, Health Promotion Officer, U.S. Army Public Health CommandFebruary 2, 2015
On Feb. 19, join others across the nation in recognition of the Great American Spit Out, a time to quit the use of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snuff, snus and dissolvable products (i.e., lozenges, strips, sticks) for a period of 24 hours or more. Despite media advertisements promoting smokeless tobacco products as less harmful than smoking tobacco products (i.e., cigarettes), any form of tobacco use is dangerous and increases the users susceptibility to oral cancers.
Smokeless tobacco users absorb nicotine in the mouth, causing a variety of dental health concerns including bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. It's important to visit your dentist for regular checkups when using any form of tobacco products.
Addiction associated with smokeless tobacco use is also alarming. Nicotine is the addictive substance that causes the physical dependence and emotional addiction to a tobacco product. Smokeless tobacco products are known to have two to three times the amount of nicotine than cigarettes.
For Soldiers, nicotine addiction impacts mission readiness by: reducing stamina, reducing concentration, reducing night vision and increasing recovery time for the healing of wounds. Additionally, a strong association exists between tobacco addiction and mental health diagnoses, mood disorders and substance abuse. Smokeless tobacco can also cause financial hardship to those that are addicted, with potential costs of over $1,000 a year. All tobacco use significantly increases overall military healthcare costs. As a result of the significant negative impacts of tobacco use, military installations are helping to combat tobacco use in the Army by enforcing existing tobacco restriction policies and promoting tobacco-free facilities and campuses.
The Great American Spit Out is a great time to get support or to support others and say "no" to addiction and unnecessary financial hardships, and gain back your healthier life. Quitting tobacco takes a plan, a commitment and action. There are a plethora of services that can help. A few steps that you can follow are:
• Contact a friend and/or your healthcare provider to let them know of your plan to quit. A healthcare provider can offer alternative options and provide personal advice on how to proceed.
• Prepare a plan for what you'll do to keep busy when the urge from the addiction is present during the Great American Spit Out. Will you take a relaxing walk, call a friend, drink water or chew on sugarless gum?
• Identify the resources that best fit your needs. Do you prefer face-to-face counseling, online chatting, large support groups or social texting? Whatever you choose, there are many resources ready to help.
• Be realistic and be determined. You can become tobacco free!