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How to Quit Smokeless Tobacco

Quitting smokeless tobacco is hard. But it helps if you have a plan. Here are some steps you can take to quit.

Pick a Quit Date

Every day is a good day to quit. Try to pick a date within the next two weeks so you can prepare. A time with low stress works well for many people.

Understand Withdrawal

After you quit, you may feel uncomfortable and crave a chew or dip. This is withdrawal. Your body is getting used to not having nicotine. For most people, the worst symptoms of withdrawal last a few days to a few weeks. During this time, you may:

  • Feel a little depressed.
  • Be unable to sleep.
  • Become cranky, frustrated, or mad.
  • Feel anxious, nervous, or restless.
  • Have trouble thinking clearly.

You may be tempted to chew or dip when these feelings hit. They are temporary, no matter how powerful they feel at the time.

Nicotine withdrawal can be uncomfortable, but the worst symptoms only last a few days to a couple of weeks. Stay strong!

Learn How to Handle Triggers and Cravings

Triggers are specific people, places, or activities that make you want to chew or dip. Knowing your triggers can help you learn to deal with them. Different people have different triggers. Some common ones are:

  • Waking up during the night or having nightmares
  • After meals or during breaks
  • Driving
  • Stress or pain
  • Feeling anxious, angry, impatient, or bored
  • Seeing someone else smoke, chew, or dip
  • Drinking coffee or alcohol
  • After sex
  • Before bedtime
  • Watching TV or a live game
  • Playing a sport

Triggers can cause cravings. Cravings are short but intense urges to chew or dip. Most cravings last for 15–20 minutes. Learn about more triggers and get ideas for dealing with cravings

Two is better than one! Nicotine Replacement Therapy like the patch works best when combined with nicotine gum or lozenges.

Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy

One way to deal with nicotine withdrawal is to try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). A lot of research has been done on NRT. It has been shown to be safe and effective for almost all tobacco users who want to quit.

NRT can reduce withdrawal symptoms. And NRT can double your chances of quitting for good. NRT is available from your VA provider at a low cost or at your neighborhood drugstore without a prescription.

NRT comes in several different forms, including patch, gum, and lozenge. The patch is a long-acting form of NRT that releases a small, steady amount of nicotine through the skin. This small amount of nicotine helps satisfy your craving for nicotine. But you may still have cravings while on the patch. Doctors recommend using the patch along with a short-acting form of NRT, like the gum or the lozenge. This will help you fight these strong cravings. That’s because using the patch with either the gum or lozenge will work better than using any of these on their own. If you have a severe medical condition or are pregnant, talk to your doctor about using NRT.

If you plan to use NRT, have it available on your quit day. Read the instructions on the NRT package and follow them carefully. NRT will give you the most benefit if you use it as recommended.

Get Help

It is hard to quit chewing or dipping on your own. Quitting “cold turkey” is not your only choice. There are lots of resources to help you quit.

Check out the VA programs that can help you quit:

  • Tobacco Quitline: Call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to talk with a trained counselor who can help you come up with a quit plan that works for your life. He or she can also give you support to stay smokefree.
  • SmokefreeVET: This text messaging program sends you support, advice, and encouragement while you are quitting. Sign up for the program in English by texting the word VET to 47848 or go to smokefree.gov/smokefreeVET. For Spanish, text VETesp to 47848 or go to smokefree.gov/smokefreeVETesp.

There are also medications that can help you quit. Medications can double your chances of quitting for good. Using medication doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough to quit on your own. Using medication can help you keep committed to quitting for yourself and others.

Talk to your VA health care provider about medications to help you quit.

Celebrate Successes

An hour, a day, or any time without chewing or dipping is something to celebrate. Get together with the people who’ve supported your quit journey. Take time to feel proud of yourself. Check out tobacco-free ways to celebrate your successes.

More For You

Nicotine is the main addictive substance in tobacco. When you quit‚ your body has to get used to not having it.
Understand why you feel like you need to smoke. Find ways to avoid triggers and deal with withdrawal and cravings.
Check out resources from VA, Smokefree, and the National Cancer Institute—trusted experts who can help you quit.
SmokefreeVET is a mobile text messaging service for military Veterans who receive their health care through VA.