Do you chew tobacco?
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants you to take the Great American Spit Out challenge on Thursday, Feb. 21.
And no — the feds aren’t interested in how far you can spit after you dip. They want you to kick the habit for one day, and hopefully for good, using VA health resources at your disposal.
These include toll-free access to 855-QUIT-VET, a line veterans can call to speak with a tobacco cessation counselor to make a plan for quitting and to receive ongoing counseling.
There’s also a texting program called SmokefreeVET, through which veterans can receive multiple texts a day with advice and encouragement to help them stop using tobacco. To access it, veterans should text VET to 47848, and they can also text the number with keywords, such as URGE, STRESS and DIPPED to receive immediate coping tips.
“Quitting smokeless tobacco can be challenging, but with VA’s help it can be much easier,” VA Sec. Robert Wilkie said in a statement.
Smokeless tobacco typically comes in three forms — chewing tobacco, snuff and dissolvables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the different flavors may be appealing, these products contain nicotine and are not safe alternatives to smoking, as they are linked to cancer in the esophagus, mouth and throat and pancreas. They can also lead to tooth decay and tooth loss, as well as gum disease.
A recent report on veterans’ health found smokeless tobacco use among veterans is more than double that of nonveterans. Some reasons for this, according to research by Project UNIFORM from last year’s Great American Spit Out challenge, are that veterans use this habit to cope with stress reintegrating into civilian life, anger, mental health issues and boredom, among other things.
This is the third year the VA has participated in the challenge and is working to get the word out through its “Better Starts Today” campaign.