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Stopping Smokeless Tobacco Use: Care Instructions


There are plenty of reasons to stop using smokeless tobacco. These products contain nicotine, which is addictive. Smokeless tobacco can cause serious health problems, such as:

  • White patches or red sores in your mouth that can turn into mouth (oral) cancer involving the lip, tongue, or cheek.
  • Tooth loss and other dental problems.
  • Gum disease. Your gums may pull away from your teeth and not grow back.

People who use tobacco crave the nicotine in it. Giving it up is much harder than simply changing a habit. Your body has to stop craving the nicotine. It's hard to quit, but you can do it. Many tools are available for people who want to quit. You may find that combining tools works best for you.

There are several steps to quitting. Your doctor can help you set up the plan that best meets your needs. You may want to attend a tobacco cessation program. When you choose a program, look for one that has proven success. Ask your doctor for ideas. You will greatly increase your chances of success if you take medicine as well as get counselling or join a cessation program.

Some of the changes you feel when you first quit are uncomfortable. Your body will miss the nicotine at first, and you may feel short-tempered and grumpy. You may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. Medicine can help you deal with these symptoms. You may struggle with changing your habits and rituals. And the urge to use tobacco may continue for a time.

This may be a lot to deal with, but keep at it. You will feel better.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get support. You have a better chance of quitting if you have help and support.
  • After you quit, do not use tobacco again, not even once. Get rid of all tobacco products and anything that reminds you of tobacco, like ashtrays, spit cups, and lighters. If you smoke, clean your house and your clothes to get rid of the smell.
  • Learn how to live without tobacco. Think about ways you can avoid those things that make you reach for tobacco.
    • Avoid situations that put you at greatest risk. For some people, it's hard to have a drink with friends or a coffee break with co-workers without using tobacco.
    • Change your daily routine. Take a different route to work, or eat a meal in a different place.
  • Try to cut down on stress. Calm yourself or release tension by doing an activity you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, or gardening.
  • Learn about treatments that can help you quit.
    • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement products help you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine you need. They can help you deal with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These products include nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray, and inhalers. Most are available without a prescription.
    • Ask your doctor about varenicline (Champix) or bupropion. These prescription medicines can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. They don't contain nicotine.
  • Eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise. Having healthy habits will help your body move past its craving for nicotine.
  • Be prepared to keep trying. Most people aren't successful the first few times they try to quit. Don't give up if you use tobacco again. Make a list of things you learned, and think about when you want to try again.

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