Quit the spit: Smokeless tobacco no better than lit
It’s a dangerous, addictive habit that rots teeth and can lead to grotesque cancers of the mouth and lip. So, still thinking smokeless tobacco is a healthy alternative to smoking? While it might appear so, putting in a dip or a chew can cause as much harm as lighting up cigarettes.
“A lot of the effects smoking has on the body – causing blood vessels to narrow raising blood pressure and causing several cancers – are the same for smokeless tobacco ,” said Air Force Col. Thomas Moore, a preventive medicine doctor and in charge of health promotions for the Air Force Medical Support Agency. “Smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, one of the most addictive substances known.”
That’s why Moore recommends against turning to smokeless tobacco as an alternative to lighting up a cigarette. Nov. 17 is the Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers are encouraged to crush out their cigarettes for at least 24 hours, hopefully leading to a lifetime of kicking the habit. Another event, the Great American Spit Out Feb. 18, specifically targets smokeless tobacco. “You’re really not gaining anything by giving up cigarettes just to put in a load of chew,” said Moore.
Unfortunately, Moore said, while smoking rates in many parts of the military are lower than those reported among civilians, use of smokeless tobacco is actually higher among those in active duty ranks. He said this could be because smokeless tobacco still provides many of the same kicks, such as the nicotine boost, without many of the socially unacceptable parts, such as secondhand smoke. In addition, it might be easier for troops in the field and even in an office to use smokeless tobacco without anyone else really knowing. The biggest hurdle might be the fact that smokeless tobacco contains two to three times more nicotine than cigarettes.
To help everyone kick the habit, MHS has many resources to help active duty, retirees and family members. UCanQuit2.org offers advice on how to take those first steps to crushing out cigarettes and spitting out that chew for the final time. UCanQuit2.org also helps in locating a local tobacco cessation program, and even live support with expert coaches ready to chat.
Working with the National Cancer Institute, MHS is looking for winners who can outsmart Big Tobacco. A tobacco trivia contest called tXtobacco tests knowledge of the dangers of tobacco use and directs participants to resources for quitting. The contest aims to reduce the number of military personnel who begin or reinitiate tobacco use.
“Whether it’s smoking or smokeless tobacco, we want to provide people with all the resources they need to quit,” said Paul Fitzpatrick, manager of the Defense Health Agency’s Quit Tobacco program. “The more knowledge you have and the better the resources, the more likely you are to succeed.”
He added after people decide to quit, you need to make a plan and set a quit date, put that plan into action and stick with it.
Fitzpatrick also pointed to the Cold Turkey Trot, also Nov. 17, when military installations around the world will hold fun runs and walks to help distract people from tobacco. Users and non-users of all tobacco are encouraged to participate, and the event also provides a way to burn off a few extra calories going into the upcoming holiday season.
Moore said kicking the tobacco habit is a high priority for military medicine.
“We know that if given the right information and the right help to make good choices, our military members, retirees and their families will choose a tobacco-free lifestyle,” said Moore.
Find out more on Health.mil.