How Quitting Chewing Tobacco is Different than Quitting Smoking

Looks harmless enough
Looks harmless enough | Source

Motivations for Writing this Article

In the past I’ve written articles concerning breaking tobacco addiction, and I feel solidarity in such an endeavor is important, but while so many of you have reached out to me and shared your struggles with addiction, not one of you commenting have shared my specific brand of addiction: chewing tobacco.

In my opinion quitting dipping is much harder than quitting smoking. Not that it’s a competition. I don’t want you to think I’m writing this article to brag about my addiction being harder to kick than yours. I’m writing this article because there is so little information out there specifically regarding quitting dipping.

It seems it’s always lumped together with quitting smoking, and though this is helpful in some regards, the addictions are different enough that there needs to be some information out there specific to each.

I’m writing this article to both educate people about the differences between the addictions and provide a place for dippers to come and get accurate information about what quitting might be like for them.

Why Chewing Tobacco is a Stronger Addiction than Smoking

First off, I would like to ask the question, Why do you think only former smokers have responded to my articles regarding tobacco addiction?One part of the answer is really obvious: there are way more smokers in the world than dippers, but that said, wouldn’t one figure at least one former dipper would have commented on my articles?

The other part of the answer, I hypothesize, is that there are simply so few dippers that are able to quit. With smoking a small percentage of people succeed at kicking the happy. With dipping almost nobody succeeds.

And I’m not just garnering this opinion from the response to my articles, either. I live in Oklahoma. More people dip here per capita than about anywhere. I’ve known hundreds of people to try to quit. The number I’ve known to have had some success, let’s say going without a dip for 3 months or more, is probably less than 50. The number to have actually stopped is 5, and that’s if I count myself.

So the next question is why? Why do so few dippers succeed at quitting? I believe it is because the nicotine delivery system for dippers is so much more effective than it is for smokers.

Let’s look to an analogy to further illuminate my point. Is smoking heroin the same as injecting it? No. People who inject it directly into their bloodstreams are getting a far more potent dosage than those absorbing the drug through smoke in their lungs.

The smoking process alone destroys much of the drug’s potency; whereas when it is injected, the drug is more or less unadulterated.

It’s a similar process with tobacco. When you put the drug unaltered on your gums, it pretty much goes directly into the bloodstream. When you smoke tobacco, the burning process kills much of the potency of the high, and then on top of this you have filters and even weakened versions of the tobacco to choose from.

In the past I’ve read articles describing chewing tobacco as having as many as 12 times the potency of say a filtered, low tar cigarette.

All tobacco products begin the same way.
All tobacco products begin the same way. | Source

Effects of Withdrawals

Now we’ve established the Why of breaking chewing tobacco addiction being harder, let’s focus on the negative effects of quitting. Just as a general overview, quitting dipping involves all the same pains as quitting smoking, but to a much higher degree, and possibly a few additional side effects that smokers don’t have to deal with.

Just some examples of what to expect: while all recovering tobacco addicts have stomach and digestive issues, if you quit dipping, expect to feel like your insides are being ripped out for at least a month. Whereas a smoker quitting can expect get backed up, if you quit dipping, don’t be surprised if you wind up at the hospital for a severe impaction.

Quitting any tobacco product has the ability to cause an ulcer, but again, if you quit dipping the chances are even higher.

In addition to withdrawals being more intense, expect them to take way longer to recover from. For example, while the “out of the woods” mark for most smokers is around 1 year clean. The “out of the woods” mark for most dippers is more like 3 to 5 years.

In a nutshell, breaking any long term addiction is a time consuming and traumatic experience. With chewing tobacco, though the benefits of quitting outweigh the drawbacks, it takes a toll on your mind, body, and soul to quit. If you wish to quit, stay away from people who tell you otherwise. In the long run their faux positivity will ultimately prove toxic, and the weight of realizing the addiction isn’t gone after a week like they said will ultimately drive you right back to dipping.

Hypothesis: Quitting Chewing Tobacco can cause Extreme Obesity in Men

Do you remember when Jenny McCarthy convinced everybody that autism was caused by vaccinations? And now because a former Playmate told us to quit vaccinating our kids based on incomplete and fraudulent scientific research, we’re all at risk of dying of diseases previously thought to be all but eradicated.

This is proof positive that scientific conclusions based purely on observation can have devastating effects on society when given too much credence. That said, almost all scientific findings are first initiated by observation. The observation then leads to a hypothesis. Then the hypothesis is tested which reveals data. And if that data isn’t bastardized to fulfill agendas, then we have valid results.

It is a known factor that weight gain is a side effect of quitting tobacco. Observation leads me to believe that the 5 to 10 pounds the literature says you will gain if you quit and then quickly lose again is skewed data serving various agendas.

Observation has shown me that while some gain virtually no weight when quitting, the average is more like 20 to 30 pounds, with most never completely recovering to their original weight, which makes sense when you consider that many started the habit to become slimmer in the first place.

But the bigger leap I’m making here is that men who quit dipping tend to get enormous until they seek medical attention. Again, a scientific study needs to be done, but what I’m seeing in men who either have quit dipping for good or for a number of months are subsequent thyroid problems and a reduction in the ability to naturally produce testosterone.

Is this a possible product of quitting dipping?
Is this a possible product of quitting dipping? | Source

And true to form like everyone else I’ve known to try to have an extended go at quitting dipping, that is exactly what happened to me, yet when I try to explain to my Doctor what I believe happened, he all but laughs me out of the room.

When I quit dipping I was around 250 pounds. Like every other time I’d tried to quit in the past, I started gaining weight as soon as I quit. Like every other time I tried to quit, my appetite was out of control for the first few months. Like every other time I tried to quit, I eventually took control of my appetite and started exercising. Like every other time I tried to quit, these actions did very little in curtailing my weight gain.

And this is what people don’t understand, when you have a biological imbalance, let’s say in a thyroid, nothing but medication is going to fix the problem. Without medical help an overactive thyroid will cause you to shrivel away to a skeleton. With a thyroid that doesn’t produce enough, you will gain weight regardless of your diet.

My weight gain began when I quit tobacco. Starting from 250 pounds, I maxed out at somewhere around 330 pounds after about 6 months tobacco free. Through tremendous effort I was able to get back down as low as 290 pounds, only to balloon back up at the drop of a hat.

I went to the doctor about a month ago. He asked for blood work, and the results showed my thyroid to not be working properly and extremely low testosterone levels, especially for a 38 year old. I have since started on a thyroid supplement called Levothyroxine, and the initial results have been wonderful. Whether or not I will require actual testosterone therapy remains to be seen, but my outlook now is far better than it was just a few weeks ago.

Again, none of these problems have to have been caused by quitting dipping, and if I hadn’t seen this same outcome again and again, I never would have even tried to make this connection, but over and over I’ve seen this result in people trying to quit dipping, some far younger than me.

I’ll put it this way: if I were a betting man I’d put everything I own on there being a connection. Tobacco does affect metabolism. It’s not that big of a leap to think there would be some severe consequences to your weight after breaking a long term addiction, especially with the drug levels ingested through the use of chewing tobacco. I would love for some actual, agenda free research to be done on the matter.

Availability of Nicotine Supplements for Dippers

As I’ve established, dipping is not smoking, and because of this, it can be very hard for the dipper who wants to quit to find help specific to the addiction.

For example, items designed to help, like nicotine patches, lozenges, and even e-cigarettes, are tailored to appease the nicotine levels ingested by smokers. To my knowledge, there isn’t anything commercially available for dippers, and even if there are, they aren't as readily accessible as products to help smokers.

There are plenty of products catered for smokers who want to quit.
There are plenty of products catered for smokers who want to quit. | Source

Smoking is more Dagerous than Dipping

For as awful as it is to quit chewing tobacco, I would be remiss in this comparison if I didn’t point out that at least it isn’t quite as hazardous to your health as smoking. As the tobacco can warns: “Chewing tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking,” but it is a “safer” alternative.

The big reason for this is just the smoke. Dippers don’t get emphysema. The breadth of cancers they are likely to get isn’t as large. They don’t impart the ills of their habit to passersby.

One might say that dipping is worse on your teeth, but in my experience smokers’ teeth seem to go just as fast or faster. It goes without saying that all the nicotine in chewing tobacco is bad for your heart, but at least you’re able to remain physically active. Cigarettes rob you of this, and really the net result on heart health is at worst a push between the two.

These are both terrible habits that will likely kill you, and while it is worthy to note that the grip of chewing tobacco addiction is stronger, smoking is undoubtedly worse for your health.


So why quit dipping if it is really so hard, if the road to recovery takes years? I’m closing in on 2 years chewing tobacco free. It’s been miserable, and I still occasionally crave a dip. I’ve been to the doctor on multiple occasions due to side effects I believe to be fruit of my resolve to stop dipping, but it’s still worth it to me. It’s still an achievable and worthwhile goal.

And it’s not all pain. Like I’ve said in previous articles, things get tolerable after about 3 months, and by this point the freedom from the addiction usually seems worth what pain is left to endure. After a year the urges get even more seldom. Doctors can help, too. Just make sure you’re not trading one addiction for a new one, and everything you’re doing to counter the withdrawals is necessary.

And even if it does take 5 years for you to recover from your addiction as much as you can recover, it only amounts to a blip in your existence. To me the thing I like most about being a former dipper is not that I’ve probably extended my life, not that I’ve probably improved my overall health for the long run, not that judgmental a**holes that don’t have the least inkling to what addiction is will finally accept me.

It’s none of that. It’s the freedom of not being shackled to that drug anymore. I can go where I want to go, I can do what I want to do, and I don’t have to worry about having a can of Copenhagen in my pocket. I can wake up in the morning, and I don’t have to put a dip in my mouth to have a personality again.

There is no quick fix here, and I can only speak for myself, but to me the rewards of kicking this most pernicious habit have been well worth the sacrifices.


Did I convince you chewing tobacco addiction is stronger than cigarette addiction?

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More by this Author


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

It sounds like quite an ongoing struggle, but I salute you for doing the right thing for yourself and your family. The myriad of flavors that are available make it seem almost like candy. I recall smelling them when I worked at the tobacco manufacturer and some of the flavors of the smokeless tobacco products (and cigars/cigarillos) were dangerously inviting even to me. It's surprising what flavors are in even your average cigarette.

Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 3 months ago from Europe

I think you really hit the spot why dipping is much harder to stop with than smoking. You reason you give for it sounds very reasonable - dipping delivers the active ingredients much more efficiently. On top of that I think you get used to much higher levels of drugs, and thus more addicted.

You're doing a great job by creating awareness about this issue and the dangers of taking in tobacco in general.

You state: "scientific conclusions based purely on observation can have devastating effects on society when given too much credence". Absolutely true. Great analysis. And of course is there a connection between tobacco and weight gain, I wouldn't doubt a second about that. If your doctor doesn't agree, he might have passed his exams with Cs and Ds. Don't think they are all equally smart because they have a PhD.

Have a great week, Larry.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

This is an interesting article. It never occurred to me that one would be harder than the other. The important comment at the end is well-worth noting...there are no easy fixes when stopping an addiction. Right on with that!

Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

Matt Easterbrook5 3 months ago from Oregon

Larry it is a proven fact that chewing tobacco can cause mouth and throat cancer. Like you mentioned it can cause many other health concerns not to,mention stomach cancer. I grew up in a rural area where Copenhagen was very popular. I have seen even my own brother go through this addiction. He to this day cannot quit the habit and the older he gets the more health issues are catching up to him. Yes, no doubt this addiction is right in line with Heroin and Meth. I would encourage most young people to not even try this stuff at all period as it only takes once to become addicted.

jobsmart profile image

jobsmart 3 months ago


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

FlourishAnyway: you know once you're really hooked, the flavors mean nothing in comparison to the high.

For example, Copenhagen has always been thought of as the strongest dip. It smells and tastes terrible! I'd dip it anyhow.

I still just St love the smell of a good cigar.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Buildreps: it really is all about the delivery system with dipping.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Bill: all addiction is awful, but also, all addiction is not the same.

For example, alcoholism can kill you if you try to quit and don't seek medical help. While tobacco is not nearly so severe in that regard, I contend it may be the hardest of all addictive drugs to quit in the long run. It just hangs on.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Matt: because it isn't as prevalent an addiction as smoking, people just st don't understand how nasty an addiction it is.

I'm really glad to finally hear from somebody who has seen with their own eyes what a nasty addiction it is.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Job smart: thanks for dropping by.

Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

Matt Easterbrook5 3 months ago from Oregon

It is very nasty. Check out videos on youtube that show mouth cancer and bad dental issues from chewing dip.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Matt: I've seen a lot of them. Not just nasty, but scary.

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 3 months ago from United States

As a teacher for many years, once we had a guest speaker in our high school.The guest speaker astounded all who were there that day. The man had half a face, His teeth were exposed. He had been a habitual user of oral tobacco. When I was told to check a bathroom that day, the trash can was almost full of cans of tobacco. It had made a big impression!

FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 months ago from The Garden State

After numerous attempts at quitting over the past decade, I was finally able to give up smokeless tobacco for good three and a half years ago. The withdrawal/cravings sucked for a while but after a few weeks they slowly went away. Nowadays I don't even salivate when I pass by the Skoal display in a store anymore.

If I'd known it was so hard to quit dipping I never would have taken it up in the first place!

Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Larry, my father smoked cigarettes for 30 years before he finally quit at around the age of 44. Dad however took up chewing tobacco after he quit smoking and continued chewing until his death at the age of 88. As much as he tried, he could never give up chewing tobacco. I am sharing this hub with HP followers and on Facebook.

johnmariow profile image

johnmariow 3 months ago from Connecticut

Thanks for an excellent educational article. I never chewed tobacco, but I did smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for about 20 years.

Quitting was not easy for me. I decided to stop inhaling when I smoked. In the short term, I smoked a lot more cigarettes. But eventually my desire for cigarettes ceased. I was able to go without smoking except for an occassional cigarette when I was stressed out. But I did not inhale.

I am seventy years old now. I have not smoked a cigarette for many years. I don't have any desire to smoke; not even after a meal. I consider myself lucky because I have not had cancer either.

Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 3 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Very informative and useful article for those who want to quit these bad habits. But, there are many who are addicted to both chewing and smoking and even do not think of quitting those habits. They don't heed to good advice.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Whonunuwho: these type efforts are meaningful, but to give the negative side of things, as many kids will throw away their tobacco cans the day of an assembly like that, most will be back dipping within a week.

Assemblies like the one you mentioned are good, especially for keeping kids from starting, but actually quitting almost always comes from within.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

FatFreddysCat: so glad to hear from someone who kicked the habit.

One of the problems with chewing tobacco is that it is so hard to impart to others how difficult it is to stop. If you could do that, I don't think anyone would ever start.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Paul: thanks so much for sharing.

The fact he lived to 88 reinforces the fact that chewing/dipping isn't quite as bad for you as smoking. That said, it still kills or at least shortens the lives of most who use it, and I believe it is one of the hardest addictions to break known to man.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

John: chew, dip, cigar, cigarette, one commonality between them all, the difficulty of not using after a nice meal.

Once you can make it through a meal without wanting tobacco after, you're on the road to recovery.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Venkata: thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Eldon Arsenaux profile image

Eldon Arsenaux 3 months ago from Cooley, Texas

Larry, I hadn't considered this. I was a smoker for ten years on and off, whereas with dip, chaw, and snus I've been addicted without much lapse. Perhaps too, is the stigma involved. Smoking is an obvious addiction. Where there's smoke there's fire there's smell. Chewing tobacco, especially snus, is less noticeable beyond a bulge in the lip. Just my two cents. I recently switched to e-cigs, but find myself, under several circumstances continuing to use snus. I agree about the post-meal craving. Anyway, glad to hear you've quit. As for me, I'm still a cooked turkey.



Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Eldon: I had used Snus in the past. It's just dipping, only a little more neatly packaged, and a bit easier to hide.

People are rarely able to quit, and I'll be honest, in writing chewing tobacco provides a supreme concentration that is hard to replicate without it.

I don't preach quitting to folks, because I don't believe it works, but if you ever decide to quit, I hope the information I've provided is helpful and realistic.

Thanks for dropping by. I always like to hear your take on things.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an excellent and important article, Larry. I'm glad that you're winning the battle against dipping and the side effects of quitting. I hope your article helps many other people to do the same thing. I'll share this hub.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Alicia: thanks so much for sharing. I always appreciate your support.

teaches12345 2 months ago

Chewing tobacco was the norm when we lived in the south, not for us, but for many people we knew. I never thought of it being more of a problem to quit. It is wonderful that you found the sacrifices were worth the pain of quitting this addiction.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Teaches: there is a much lower success rate for dippers trying to quit than smokers.

I would direct you to some statistics regarding this, but they are just so hard to find these days. I guess the idea has become to just lie to people, and they'll be more likely to quit? I don't get it. When I do something, like quit dipping, I like to know what I'm up against.

The irony is that when I was a kid, the anti-tobacco movement always emphasized the factual data, that the addiction to dipping is worse than smoking, with the thought that this would keep them from ever starting.

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 months ago from San Diego California

You sold me. I'm glad I never seriously started, although I did dabble in High School. I've probably told you that, and I probably also told you that my Grandpa got jaw cancer from this stuff. Nobody knew he dipped, because he hid it so well, but as a very young child I saw a pouch of Red Man in his coveralls. Grandpa thought grandson wouldn't remember this, but the image has stuck with me. Mystery about jaw cancer solved, although my Mom swears that "her Daddy" would never do that.

Hope you can kick this horrible monkey off your back for good.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Sorry to hear how this junk affected your family. Thanks for the encouraging words.

Just a fine point I haven't clarified. I dipped, which is often referred to as "chewing" where I'm from. There is actually a difference between dipping and chewing.

If your Grandpa was using Redman, it was probably chew (I'm not aware of a Redman dip), which comes in a pouch and looks less processed than dip, which comes in a can. With chew you can usually tell it's from a leaf if you look close enough.

Baseball players used to often have big chaws of chew when they played: Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra just to name a couple. Like any tobacco product, it helped with concentration and therefore was useful in a sport like know, until it killed you.

The nicotine levels in chew are actually less than that of dip, but the delivery system is the same, and it's still a stronger addiction than cigarettes as a result.

What I find fascinating is that your Grandpa was able to hide his habit from family. While if a dipper is careful, he might be able to hide his habit from loved ones by taking a small pinch at a time (I actually taught while I had a dip with none the wiser) because chew is basically the dried leaves, it's hard to take a small chew. In addition, in my experience chewing produces far more juice than dipping, neccesitating more spitting.

Deb Hirt 2 months ago

I had no idea as this was just a major addiction. I have only known there dippers, one of which is in the area. The other two were plumbers, and al are OK residents. None of them ever mentioned that they wanted to quit, which is why your interesting information really surprised me so. I knew nothing about the trials and tribulations. If you're interested in doing a survey, try SurveyMonkey. I don't know if there is any charge for this, but if not, you're bound to get some hits. Let me know how the survey suggestion turns out, or if you are even interested in doing that.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma Author

Deb: I always appreciate your feedback. I need to give a survey a try.

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