Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Ask yourself or a loved one to be through with chew

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Whatever you call it — chew, dip, snuff, spit, plug, wad, pinch and quid — is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. The tobacco industry markets the product "smokeless tobacco" as safer than cigarettes because you are not lighting up. But smokeless tobacco is harmful and is every bit as addictive as cocaine or heroin.

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

This monthly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

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Suzi Mariano

• The amount of nicotine absorbed from chewing tobacco is three to four times the amount delivered by a cigarette.

• Chewing tobacco contains 4.6 mg of nicotine compared to 1.8 mg in cigarettes.

• There are 28 chemicals known to cause cancer in chew/snuff. These include formaldehyde, arsenic, acetaldehyde, hydrazine, cadmium, polonium, cyanide and lead.

Smokeless tobacco users drastically increase their risks of oral cancers of the lip, tongue, cheeks, gums, floor and roof of the mouth, throat, larynx and esophagus. It also can cause cancers of the stomach, pancreas and prostate. This is a very addictive and deadly product that is not sexy, sporty or macho.

Spit tobacco users should check monthly damage to teeth, gums, the tongue and surrounding tissue, which may indicate early warning signs of cancer. As deadly as mouth cancer is, your chances of surviving are much better when found early. At a minimum, on a monthly basis, conduct an oral screening using a mirror and good lighting. If you see any discolored skin, feel any bumps or soreness, or have a sore in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks, call your dental provider.

Smokeless tobacco users are challenged to quit their habit for the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 23 and during Through With Chew Week from Feb. 19 to 25. It may be a stepping stone for quitting smokeless tobacco for good.

Here are some tips on quitting during the Great American Spit Out:

• Instead of using a nicotine patch, think about using nicotine gum or a nicotine lozenge. You’ll need something else to do with your mouth instead of putting in dip.

• Make a list of what’s most important to you, and look at it every day. Watching your daughter grow up, reaching a 10th anniversary, smiling with a full set of white teeth — all of these are being jeopardized by smokeless tobacco.

• Exercise is one of the best ways to keep a craving at bay. Working out regularly will make you healthier overall and help you beat your nicotine addiction.

• Find a friend and talk to someone about quitting. You’re twice as likely to be successful in your mission if you get support.

For free help quitting, call the Colorado QuitLine, 800-QUIT-NOW (English and Spanish). The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association also offers counseling with a tobacco cessation specialist in Steamboat Springs or Craig. There is no fee for this service. To be connected with a cessation counselor in Steamboat Springs or Craig, call 970-871-7634.

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s Community Health Educators also will be teaming up to help you quit tobacco with free tobacco quit kits and helpful resources. Come see us at City Market in Craig from 5 to 6 p.m. Feb. 24 or at City Market in Steamboat Springs from 5 to 6 p.m. Feb. 26. For more information, call 970-871-7634.

Suzi Mariano is the director of communications for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

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