The Great American Spit Out
Also known as
Thursday of the third full week in February
The Great American Spit Out raises awareness about the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco. Users are to quit for at least the day, with the ultimate goal of quitting for good. The day has been especially geared towards military personnel, where rates of smokeless tobacco use are higher than the general populace. The Great American Spit Out takes place during Through With Chew Week.
There are many forms of smokeless tobacco, such as loose-leaf chew, plug, and snuff. Snuff is a finely ground tobacco that may be dry or moist. Moist snuff is the most popular type of smokeless tobacco in the United States, followed by loose leaf chew. Most types of smokeless tobacco are spit out, but some are not. Snus is a type of moist snuff gaining popularity that doesn't need to be spit. Smokeless tobacco often comes in flavors, which makes it more appealing to children.
Abrasives, added nicotine, and thousands of chemicals are also included in smokeless tobacco. About thirty of the chemicals are carcinogens, including lead, arsenic, mercury, formaldehyde, and the radioactive polonium-210, which is found in tobacco fertilizer. The most harmful chemicals are nitrosamines (TSNs). These chemicals are specific to tobacco and are formed when growing, curing, fermenting, and aging the tobacco. They are at a much higher level in smokeless tobacco than they are in cigarettes. A dip of chewing tobacco has the nicotine equivalent of three to four cigarettes, and someone who goes through two tins of snuff a week takes in the same amount of nicotine as someone who smokes a pack and a half a day.
Smokeless tobacco harms the mouth, teeth, and throat, and puts users at risk for other health problems. Early problems may include discolored teeth and bad breath. Receding gums and gum disease may follow, which may lead to tooth decay, and eventually to tooth loss. Over half of users get precancerous lesions called Leukoplakia in the first three years of use. Cancer can develop within five years of smokeless tobacco use. Common cancers include mouth, esophageal, and pancreatic. Users also have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. If used during pregnancy, there is a higher chance of stillbirth or early delivery, and the brain development of the baby may be affected. For all these reasons, today people spit out smokeless tobacco for the last time.
How to Observe
If you use smokeless tobacco, you should quit at least for the day, but the ultimate goal is to quit altogether. Set a date for when you will quit, or spit out your smokeless tobacco for the last time today. There are many resources online that can help you quit. There also is support online for military personnel hoping to quit. If you do not use smokeless tobacco, mark the day by raising awareness about its harmful effects. Inform anyone you know who chews tobacco about the day. Encourage them to quit and provide them with information about smokeless tobacco they are not aware of. But, make sure to be supportive and non-confrontational, as it will be difficult for them to take the steps they need to succeed.