Guide to Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

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Setting a date and making a plan to quit smokeless tobacco

Once you’ve decided to quit, you’re ready to pick a quit date. This is a very important step. One study of smokeless tobacco users who were offered nicotine replacement therapy found that even in those who did not plan to quit, picking a Quit Day and then quitting on that day led to much better success staying quit 6 months later compared to those who gradually reduced their use of tobacco.

Pick a day in the next month as your Quit Day. Picking a date too far away gives you time to rationalize and change your mind. But you want to give yourself enough time to prepare and come up with a plan. You might choose a date that has a special meaning, like a birthday or anniversary, or the date of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday in November each year). Or you might want to just pick a random date. Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

Plan for your prescriptions

If you are thinking of using a prescription drug, you will need to talk with your doctor about getting it in time for your Quit Day. Talk with your doctor about exactly how to use the medicine and when to start taking it. If you’re going to use a prescription drug, put a note on your calendar to remind you when to start taking it.

Cut down on how much you use

One way to cut back before quitting is to cut down on the number of times or the amount you dip or chew each day. By doing this, you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body. Try cutting back to half of your usual amount before you quit. If you usually carry your tin or pouch with you, try leaving it behind. Carry something else to put in your mouth instead.

Cut back on when and where you use

You can also try cutting back on when and where you dip or chew. This gives you a chance to notice when your cravings are the worst. It helps you decide on a game plan if you know what triggers your cravings. Again, once you’ve decided not to use tobacco at a certain place, leave your pouch or tin at home when you go there. Try your substitutes instead. (See the section called “Some steps to help you prepare for your Quit Day.”)

Put off using tobacco when you have a craving

Go as long as you can without giving into a craving. Start by trying for at least 10 minutes, then longer and longer as you near your Quit Day. Pick your 3 worst triggers and stop dipping or chewing at those times. This will be hard at first, but practice will make it easier.

Quitting tobacco is a lot like losing weight. It takes a strong commitment over a long time. Users may wish there were a magic bullet – a pill or method that would make quitting painless and easy. But there’s nothing like that. Nicotine substitutes can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, but they work best when used as part of a quitting plan that addresses the physical, mental, and emotional parts of quitting.

Some steps to help you prepare for your Quit Day

  • Pick your Quit Day and mark it on your calendar.
  • Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your Quit Day, and let them know how they can help.
  • Get rid of all the tobacco in your home, car, and workplace the night before your Quit Day.
  • Stock up on other things to put in your mouth – for instance, sugarless gum, carrot sticks, beef jerky, cinnamon sticks, and/or sugarless hard candy.
  • Decide on a plan. Will you use nicotine replacement therapy or other medicines? Will you go to a class or program? If so, sign up now.
  • Consider seeing your doctor or dentist. Have them check your mouth, and discuss your plan for quitting with them.
  • Set up a support system. This could be a group program, Nicotine Anonymous, or friends or family members who have quit and are willing to help you.
  • Ask family and friends who use tobacco not to use it around you or leave it out where you can see it.
  • If you are using varenicline or bupropion, take your dose each day leading up to your Quit Day.
  • Make a list of your “triggers” – situations, places, or feelings – that make you more likely to use tobacco. Being aware of these can help you avoid them or at least be ready for them.
  • Think back to your other attempts to quit. Try to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Successful quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Decide now on your own plan. Some options include joining a tobacco cessation class, calling a cessation support line, going to support meetings, using nicotine replacement or other medicines, online support, and using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets. For the best chance of success, your plan should include 2 or more of these options.

On your Quit Day

  • Don’t use tobacco of any kind. This means none, not even a pinch!
  • Stay busy – try walking, short bursts of exercise, or other activities or hobbies.
  • Keep substitutes handy to put in your mouth.
  • Drink lots of water and juices.
  • Start using nicotine replacement if that’s your choice.
  • Call a quit support line, go to a quit class, or follow your self-help plan.
  • Avoid situations where the urge to dip or chew is strong.
  • Avoid people who are using tobacco.
  • Avoid alcohol. It can weaken your resolve to quit
  • Think about how you can change your routine. Sit in a different chair at home, drive a new route to work, or choose foods and drinks that make tobacco taste bad.

Read the next section to find out more about the kinds of thoughts and temptations that come up when you try to quit, as well as ideas for ways to deal with or avoid them.


Last Medical Review: 02/20/2014
Last Revised: 02/20/2014