Chewing Tobacco: Effects, Addiction, and How to Quit

Chewing tobacco: A complete guide
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Chewing tobacco, snuff or plugs are products that have enjoyed fairly widespread use for decades. They have never achieved the massive popularity of cigarettes, but many people use them as an alternative to smoking. As we examine the health risks involved with chewing tobacco, we will see that it is definitely not a safer choice and shares many similar health risks as smoking does.

Table of contents:
How to Quit Chewing Tobacco
Facts About Chewing Tobacco
Why Quit? The Dangers of Chewing Tobacco and Dipping
How Addicted Are You?


How to Quit Chewing Tobacco

STEP 1: PICK A DAY

If you want to quit, then you are going to have to pick a quit date and stick to it. You can’t just say that you are going to start quitting and not have a date set in mind. That makes it too easy to fall back into your old habits simply because you didn’t make definite plans. If you set a date for yourself, you are more likely to put an honest effort in.

STEP 2: BUILD YOUR RESOLVE

If you are going to quit, then you need to be determined to do so. You cannot put a half-hearted effort into it and expect good results. You may want to focus your efforts on all the reasons why you should quit.

You can focus on how unhealthy the habit is for you. Chewing tobacco not only causes bad breath, mouth soreness and stained teeth, but it also can cause you to lose your teeth over time, develop multiple types of cancer and suffer a heart attack, strokes and other cardiac problems.

You can also focus on how expensive the habit is. Many people spend upwards of $1,000 a year on chewing tobacco, not to mention all the medical costs they will have to pay once the long-term effects start to set in. It may not be quite as expensive as buying cigarettes, but it is still a costly habit, and it will only become more expensive over time.

STEP 3: CUT BACK

If you can quit cold turkey and just stop using chewing tobacco altogether, that is the best way to do it. But for those who are strongly addicted and have been using it for a while, it can be a difficult habit to break. You will have physical and mental cravings that compel you to come back to your habit, and it may not be possible or effective to quit all at once.

Instead, you might want to just cut back on how much tobacco you are using each day and week. You should really put your energy into reducing how much you use as you near your quit date. As difficult as it may be, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your intake.

Facts About Chewing Tobacco

In the United States, smokeless tobacco comes in two major types: snuff, and chewing tobacco. Snuff is usually finely ground tobacco that comes in small pouches while chewing tobacco can be in various forms such as loose leaf, plug, and twist. Terms spit tobacco and chewing tobacco are generally used to refer to smokeless tobacco.

  • Chewing tobacco has at least 28 carcinogens while tobacco cigarettes have more than 70.
  • Studies have shown that chewing tobacco can cause a variety of gum diseases, tooth decay and leukoplakia – a disease that forms light colored patches inside the mouth and can even lead to cancer.
  • The chances of stillbirth and early delivery increase exponentially if the mother uses smokeless tobacco during the pregnancy
  • According to careful estimates, about 3.5% of adults use some form of chewing tobacco, with men (6.8%) considerably stealing the larger portion of the percentage from women (0.4%). And when it comes to races, the American Indians/Alaska Natives make the largest portion (5.4%).
  • Research shows that people who chew tobacco have a higher concentration of serum cotinine and NNAL than smokers, and dangerously high percentage of lead in blood than those who don’t use tobacco in any form.
  • Long-term users of chewing tobacco are at a higher risk of head and neck cancer, some say even as compared to tobacco smokers.

Why Quit? The Dangers of Chewing Tobacco and Dipping

The dangers of chewing tobacco that can impact you physically, financially and emotionally are too many to list here, so let’s just focus on long-term and short-term health concerns of dipping.

Short-Term Effects

It doesn’t take very long for chewing tobacco to start to have negative side effects. Because it injects nicotine directly into the bloodstream through the mouth, it starts the addiction process right away. Some researchers indicate that chewing tobacco is a lot more addictive than smoking and use of electronic cigarettes (also known as vaping). Some people will become severely addicted after just a few uses while others will be more resistant. But eventually, any user will suffer addiction to the nicotine within the tobacco.

  • Chewing tobacco causes many immediate symptoms. These include bad breath, gingivitis, staining of teeth, mouth sores (extremely common), cavities and mouth ulcers. Those who use tobacco can quickly say goodbye to beautiful smiles and the full use of their mouth. Parts of their mouths will become extremely sore and tender, and it may make it difficult for them to eat certain foods.
  • Chewing tobacco also erodes their senses of taste and smell. Its overpowering effects essentially dull these sn4ses and make it more difficult for users to enjoy the foods they eat.
  • Chewing tobacco may also cause nausea and dizziness after a single use. This can lead to decreased athletic ability as users will no longer be able to function as they used to and push themselves as hard as they used to without feeling sick. They may also experience higher blood pressure that leads to many long-term health problems.

Long-Term Effects

Some of the short-term effects develop into more serious long-term ones. Heart disease, cardiac arrest, and other similar conditions can be caused by high blood pressure. The decreased athletic ability of many users can cause them to be at risk for diabetes, even if the disease was not previously in their family.

  • The primary long-term effects of chewing tobacco include increased the risk for several different kinds of cancers, particularly oral cancers. Despite some popular belief to the contrary, not all carcinogens are caused by burning chemicals.
  • These cancers can affect all parts of the body which accommodate the chewing tobacco. That includes the mouth, gums, throat, larynx, pancreas and stomach, among others. The entire digestive system can be subject to high cancer risk when chewing tobacco is involved, and the longer the person uses chewing tobacco the greater their risk for one or more of these cancers is.
  • The short-term effects of gingivitis, bad breath, and other oral problems lead to eventual tooth decay and tooth loss. The gums may also decay through continual chewing tobacco use. Many people who use this product have very little of their original teeth intact and may be missing entire sections of teeth over time.
  • Leukoplakia is a condition characterized by lesions or open sores on the cheeks. There may also be tender, white patches on the mouth and cheeks. This condition is caused by chewing tobacco, and it becomes more severe after continued use. In some cases, the sores may become holes in the cheeks, and the skin of the cheeks may open up completely.
  • The sores can also appear on the tongue or gum, causing extreme pain during eating, brushing of teeth and talking.
  • Those who use chewing tobacco usually let the wad or plug sit on the inside of their cheek. If they use the same spot every time, it will quickly become a problem area, developing massive sores and tenderness and making it very difficult to use that part of the mouth.

How Addicted Are You?

While you might not realize it, dip and chew contain many times more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. For instance, holding a dip in your mouth for thirty minutes delivers as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. Likewise, if you chew two cans every week, it’s pretty much the same as smoking one and a half packs every single day.

Chewing tobacco: how addicted are you
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The quick information above will give you a good idea of how addicted you are. But if you’re still unsure, consider the following questions:

  • Within a few hours of chewing tobacco, you start feeling the urge to do it again?
  • Do you go to the store as soon as the stash of tobacco ends?
  • Do you chew tobacco in addition smoking cigarettes?
  • Do your teeth, tongue, and inside of your mouth show signs that you chew tobacco?
  • Do you no more feel the sting or dizziness of the dip, the way you used to feel when you initially started dipping?
  • Have you changed brands to get higher levels of nicotine?
  • Do you feel satisfied if you swallow juice?
  • Do you sometimes fall asleep with tobacco in your mouth?
  • Do you love chewing tobacco the first thing in the morning?

THE 3-WEEK PLAN FOR QUITTING CHEWING TOBACCO

WEEK 1

The first week is the hardest, and you’ll have to cope with the worst withdrawal symptoms. However, the good thing is that they don’t last too long, and the toughest part is over after just two weeks.

WEEK 2
Although things get better during the second week, but the tough period isn’t completely over yet. You have to stay strong as you’re almost there. Believe in yourself; you did it for one week, you can do it for another, and it’s this one is even easier. And don’t forget that after the second week, things will start to get better. While the first week was about coping with withdrawal symptoms, the second one is more about avoiding triggers that could lure you to chewing tobacco.

WEEK 3

Congratulate yourself if you’ve made this far. After staying off for two weeks, you might still come face to face with occasional craving or trigger, but now you know you can beat the addiction. Not only it will become easy for you to fight addiction, but you will also start enjoying your tobacco-free life. You will start to see healthy changes in your body as well as in your behavior.

But what if you slip?

You shouldn’t slip in the first place after so much hard work, but in case you do, just get right back on track. Don’t consider one slip an excuse to start dipping again. If tobacco chewing has caused some physical damage to your body, don’t panic, just talk to your physician or dentist. Whatever you do to enjoy your new life, do it, just pledge that you’ll never take another dip again.

Published: April 12, 2018 Updated: February 21, 2019

Chewing Tobacco: Effects, Addiction, and How to Quit
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