Special concerns after quitting smokeless tobacco

Weight gain

It’s well known that smokers often gain weight when they quit, but fewer studies have been done on people quitting smokeless tobacco. Still, findings suggest that people who quit smokeless tobacco have some risk of weight gain. Don’t let this stop you!

You’re more likely to succeed in quitting if you deal with quitting tobacco first, and then later take steps to lose weight. While you are quitting, try to focus on ways to help you stay healthy, rather than on your weight. Stressing about your weight may make it harder to quit. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit fat. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep and regular physical activity.

Try walking

Walking is a great way to be physically active and increase your chances of staying quit. Walking can help you by:

  • Reducing stress
  • Burning calories and toning muscles
  • Giving you something to do instead of thinking about tobacco

A pair of comfortable shoes is all most people need for walking. And most people can do it pretty much anytime. You can use these ideas as starting points and come up with more of your own:

  • Walk around a shopping mall
  • Get off the bus one stop before you usually do
  • Find a buddy to walk with during lunch time at work
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk with a friend, family member, or neighbor after dinner
  • Push your baby in a stroller
  • Take a dog (yours or maybe a neighbor’s) for a walk

Set a goal of at least 2½ hours of moderate intensity physical activity spread throughout each week. But if you don’t already exercise regularly, please check with your doctor before you start. If you’d like to learn more, please see our American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

Stress management

Tobacco users often mention stress as one of the reasons for going back to using tobacco. Stress is part of life for everyone, whether or not they use tobacco. The difference is that tobacco users have come to use nicotine to help cope with stress and unpleasant emotions. When quitting, you have to learn new ways to handle stress. This can be tough, especially during the first few days. Nicotine replacement can help for a while, but over time you will need other methods.

As mentioned before, physical activity is a good stress reducer. It can also help with the short-term sense of depression or loss that some tobacco users have when they quit. There are also stress-management classes and self-help books. Check your community newspaper, library, or bookstore.

Spiritual practices involve being part of something greater than yourself. For some, that includes things like religious practices, prayer, or church work. For others, it may involve meditation, music, being outside in nature, creative work, or volunteering to help others. Spirituality can give you a sense of purpose and help you remember why you want to stay quit.

The spiritual practices of admitting that you can’t control your addiction and believing that a higher power can give you strength have been used with much success to deal with other addictions. These practices, along with the fellowship of others on a similar path, are a key part of 12-step recovery programs. These same principles can be applied to quitting tobacco.

Think about how you can deal with stress and not use tobacco. Look at the resources around you and plan on how you will handle stress when it comes your way.

Taking care of yourself

It’s important for your health care provider to know if you use or have used any type of tobacco, so you can get the preventive health care you need. It’s well known that using smokeless tobacco use puts you at risk for certain health-related illnesses, so part of your health care should focus on related screening and preventive measures to help you stay as healthy as possible.

For example, make sure you regularly check inside your mouth for any changes. Have your doctor or dentist look at your mouth, tongue, or throat if you have any changes or problems. The American Cancer Society recommends that medical check-ups should include looking in the mouth. This way, tobacco users may be able to learn about changes such as leukoplakia (white patches on the mouth tissues) early, and prevent oral cancer or find it at a stage that’s easier to treat.

If you have any health concerns that may be related to your tobacco use, please see a health care provider as soon as possible. Taking care of yourself and getting treatment for small problems will give you the best chance for successful treatment.

The best way, though, to take care of yourself and decrease your risk for life-threatening health problems is to quit using tobacco.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 20, 2014 Last Revised: June 23, 2016

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