News: Spit it out, be “Through With Chew” this week
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — Call it dip, snuff or rub, users are gearing up to quit smokeless tobacco by any name during “Through With Chew” week starting, Feb. 21.
Starting earlier, though, was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Quentin Carritt, air traffic control system maintenance officer, Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, who quit on Valentine’s Day. He realized months ago he didn’t like dip, yet he had a problem.
“I do it because I’m addicted,’” he said. “Even after using it for 20 years, I didn’t think I was addicted.”
Before quitting, Carritt enrolled in the base’s tobacco cessation class, run by the Naval Health Clinic Hawaii. The clinic hosts weekly group talks and offers medical help in several locations, including the Kaneohe Bay and Makalapa branches. Any TRICARE beneficiary can enroll.
In those classes, Eleanor Bru, health promotions registered nurse, Naval Health Clinic Hawaii, helps users find strategies to quit for good. For smokeless tobacco users, Bru said it’s important for them to become aware of the dangers. She’s had to educate several people who think because dip is better because there’s no smoke.
“Tobacco is tobacco,” she said. “There isn’t anything safer.”
Nicotine content is still high in both products, she noted, and consuming a pinch of dip for 30 minutes has the same amount of nicotine as three cigarettes.
Users also run the risk of oral cancer, requiring surgery and chemotherapy, said Navy Lt. Melissa Pauli, dentist, 21st Dental Company.
“Oral cancer can be devastating,” Pauli said. “You’d be unable to swallow or shut your jaw.”
Those kinds of health risks and trying to be a good role model for his children were some of the reasons Carritt had tried to quit four times before.
Part of what helped him this time was having several strategies to deal with withdrawal. Using nicotine substitutes while preparing to stop chewing was the first step, he said. To handle cravings on his first completely tobacco-free day, Carritt said he’d learned it’s important to keep his mind occupied with an exciting activity.
“I didn’t plan it this way, but I bought a dolphin excursion trip for my wife for Valentine’s Day,” he said. “So we were snorkeling all day, looking at sea turtles and it kept my mind off of it. I got through that first day.”
Since then, Carritt keeps lots of sunflower seeds, nicotine gum, a toothbrush kit and sugarless gum at his desk if any cravings hit. As he manages his cravings, Carritt said having a good handle on stress and keeping supportive people around him has helped.
“I let as many people know I was quitting as I could,” he said. “It’s been really helpful. They check in with me to see how I’m doing. And other people who use dip know not to use it in front of me.”
Even with supportive friends, free resources and a host of reasons to quit, Carritt said it’s important not to feel overwhelmed by quitting.
“You have to want to do it,” he said. “Having other reasons to do it are great. But inside, you have to want to do it for yourself.”
To sign up for free tobacco cessation classes in Hawaii, call 473-1880, extension 2285. Or see http://www.ucanquit2.org for tools and information on quitting.