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Back To Vidyya Quitting Smokeless (Spit) Tobacco

Information For Patients

From The US Tobacco Control Research Branch

Spit Tobacco: Quitting

Can you quit? -- Yes you can. It is hard because nicotine is addictive. The best thing to do is to not even start, but if you are addicted, the sooner you quit, the better it is for your health. Quitting spit tobacco and staying quit can lower your risk of cancer.

How can you quit? -- The first and most important step is deciding to quit. Once you decide, make sure you tell your friends, family, and others so they can support you in quitting.

Here are some ways to help you quit. You may want to use a combination of methods. You also may want to talk with your physician or dentist in order to get help in quitting. Your physician or dentist can:

  • do an oral exam to identify lesions caused by spit tobacco
  • give you advice
  • help develop a quit plan
  • discuss nicotine replacement therapy or other therapies
  • provide encouragement
  • provide information on how to learn skills to deal with quitting and staying off spit tobacco
  • provide information about quitting spit tobacco
  • schedule follow-up contact to see how you're doing

Quit on your own. Once you decide to quit, you need to:

Use nicotine replacement products. Nicotine replacement products, such as gum, patches, nasal spray, and nasal inhaler were approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help people quit smoking cigarettes. About twice as many people who have used these products were able to quit smoking cigarettes than those people who did not use the products. Nicotine replacement products help by allowing the gradual lowering of the amount of nicotine your body needs.

Even though we don't yet know how well these products work for spit tobacco users, they may be useful as an aid in helping you quit or at least help reduce your craving for spit tobacco. Nicotine replacement products are best used in combination with other help such as group sessions or counseling.

Both nicotine gum and patches can be bought without a prescription in drug stores. Make sure to follow the instructions and don't use any tobacco, including spit tobacco, when using nicotine gum or patches. You may want to talk with your physician, dentist, or pharmacist before using nicotine gum or patches.

Other nicotine replacement products are available, such as the nasal spray and nasal inhaler. They are prescription products and have not been evaluated in research studies for effectiveness with spit tobacco users. The inhaler may not be very useful for spit tobacco users since it is shaped like a cigarette filter tip to provide smokers the hand-to-mouth movements like in smoking.

Talk with your physician or dentist about using the non-nicotine prescription drug, bupropion. The Food and Drug Administration gave its approval in March 1998 for a prescription drug (brand name is Zyban) to be used by smokers to help them quit. The active ingredient in Zyban is bupropion, which helps stimulate the two brain chemicals that nicotine affects, dopamine and norepinephrine. These two brain chemicals give you energy and a sense of well being. Since Zyban is a prescription drug, you will need to talk with your physician or dentist about whether you should use it and how to use it. Bupropion is best used in combination with other help such as group sessions or counseling. At this time bupropion has not been formally evaluated for effectiveness with spit tobacco users.

Use non-nicotine products. Non-nicotine products have been developed as oral substitutes that contain no nicotine such as mint snuff and lozenges. They come in flavors such as mint, cinnamon, and licorice and may help reduce your craving for spit tobacco.

Program and written materials. Programs and materials are available to help you quit. Group sessions and counseling to deal with quitting have been found useful. There are also printed materials that give you information and can help you quit. You can call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER for ordering information.

If you can stay off spit tobacco for two weeks, your body is rid of the addicting nicotine. Side effects of quitting -- There are side effects to quitting and you need to know about them in order to deal with them.

What if you start again? -- If you start using spit tobacco again, it does not mean you can't quit. You need to think about why you started again, so you can avoid the urge the next time. Learn from your quit attempt and try again! Each time it will be easier. Most people try 3 or 4 times before quitting for good.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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