NEWS | Feb. 15, 2012

Ditching the dip

By Claudia Dion NHCC certified tobacco treatment specialist

It takes 15 minutes to get from your workspace to the designated smoking area and back. Your favorite bar has just banned smoking indoors and you can't smoke in the bowling alley any more. Is this discrimination? Are these changes unfair to smokers?

In a word, no.

No one is forcing you to quit smoking, but as a smoker, you are being moved away from people who don't. The main reason is the danger tobacco smoke poses to others. So should you consider switching to a form of smokeless tobacco? Isn't that stuff better for you anyway?

No. Smokeless tobacco (chew, snuff, dip) is still tobacco and contains carcinogens. It maintains your addiction to nicotine and the by-product or "spit" is a health hazard - a warm, dark and moist place for germs to thrive. It also stains your teeth, causes your gums to recede, makes your breath stink and causes pre-cancerous white patches to form in your mouth.

The tobacco industry promotes smokeless tobacco as a way for you to use tobacco anywhere. The products are nicely packaged and flavored, all designed to cover up the fact that you are consuming carcinogens or tobacco-specific nitrosamines in large amounts.

If you are a smokeless tobacco user, you have probably thought about quitting. A great opportunity to quit will occur Feb. 23 during the Great American Spitout.

Whether you want to quit spit or stop smoking, the process is similar. Ask yourself, "What does smokeless tobacco do for me and can I get whatever it is some other way?"

Reasons not to quit include responses such as, "I like it" or "it relaxes me" or "it is something to do when I'm bored." If you make a list of the pros and cons - the con list will probably be longer.

Besides the oral problems already mentioned, smokeless tobacco use puts a hefty dent in your wallet. In today's economy, that money could be put to much better use. Another issue to consider is the example you are setting for your children and grandchildren. Most of us would be very unhappy if a child in our lives started any type of tobacco use.

Make your list and then decide. Quitting may not be easy, but it will be worth the effort. Remember, tobacco use is more than a habit, it is an addiction and withdrawal will occur. But, there are ways to cope with withdrawal.

Here are some important tips:

1. Decide to quit for yourself, not anyone else.

2. Pick a quit date.

3. Get support.

4. Plan what you are going to do instead of chew.

5. Choose healthy ways to relax; exercise, read, garden, sew, play games, meditate, work on a hobby or take a class. This list will be huge if you take the time to make it.

6. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if medication may help you quit.

If you don't make it the first time, don't give up. Each time you try to quit you get closer to success.

For quitting assistance, there are two resources at Joint Base Charleston. On the Weapons Station call the Wellness Center at Naval Health Clinic Charleston at 694-6910. On the Air Base call the Health and Wellness Center at 963-4007.

For additional support, call the TRICARE South toll-free Smoking Quitline at 1-877-414-9949 or the South Carolina Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).

Additional information can also be found at the Department of Defense website "Ditch the Dip" at www.ucanquit2.org.