How to Quit Smokeless Tobacco

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 11, 2021
3 min read

Smoking is harmful to your health, but so is smokeless tobacco. Here’s how to quit. 

Smokeless tobacco is a form that users consume as a solid instead of inhaling. Also called chew, dip, and moist snuff, the tobacco usually sits in their mouth — either between their lip and gums or their cheek and gums. It stays there for a long period of time, which allows the nicotine it contains to pass through mouth tissue into the bloodstream. ‌

If you use tobacco, you likely know that nicotine is highly addictive. Some types of smokeless tobacco are also treated with a substance called free nicotine that makes them even more addictive. 

The faster nicotine gets to your brain, the more addictive it is. So the harder it is to quit. But like quitting smoking, quitting smokeless tobacco is possible to do.  

Set your personal reasons. The more connected you are to the motivation, the more it can help you stay on track. ‌

You might want to quit because:‌

  • You’re concerned about your health.
  • You need the money for your groceries or your kids.
  • You don’t want your kids to see you chewing.
  • You feel embarrassed by other people’s distaste for your frequent need to spit. 

Whatever the reasons, write them down and leave these notes around your space, to keep you motivated.  ‌

Choose a date. Pick a day that you will quit tobacco. Mark it on the calendar and call it your Quit Day. The key here is to give yourself enough time to prepare but not so much that you forget about it or have time to change your mind.‌

Once you set it, tell your friends and family to hold you accountable too. Then start your preparations, which can include‌:‌

  • Switching to chew or snuff with lower nicotine
  • Getting rid of the supply in your house, car, and workplace
  • Cutting down on the number of times you dip
  • Increasing the amount of time between your dips, and waiting before satisfying a craving
  • Keeping track of your habits and why you want to chew, including time of day, your mood, and what you’re doing
  • Charting how your smokeless tobacco habit interferes with other things and people you love 
  • Stocking up on things to put in your mouth, like candies, cinnamon sticks, toothpicks, and beef jerky
  • Learning some relaxation techniques‌

On your Quit Day, stop using tobacco. Don’t chew or dip — not even once.  ‌

Prepare for withdrawal symptoms. You’ll have some withdrawal symptoms when you stop using nicotine. They might last a few days or a few weeks. This is normal. 

Be aware of these symptoms so you know what to expect:‌

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being cranky, angry, or frustrated
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling restless, anxious, or nervous‌

When these feelings hit, resist the urge to find yourself some dip. Remind yourself that these symptoms will go away, and distract yourself by staying busy.  

Manage Cravings. You’ll also have cravings when you quit tobacco. This is also normal and part of withdrawal. If you track why and when you chew before your Quit Day, you’ll know when you’re likely to have a craving. ‌

Cravings commonly happen:‌

  • On your breaks at work
  • After sex
  • When you’re watching TV
  • When you see someone else chew or dip
  • When you’re stressed
  • When you’re driving‌

These urges are intense and can be especially strong the first week. When they hit, use your candies and beef jerky or try brushing your teeth to distract yourself.‌

Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy. You might want to use nicotine replacements to help you stop smokeless tobacco, but don’t switch to cigarettes. While over-the-counter products are recommended for stopping smoking, they aren’t officially recommended to help you stop smokeless tobaccos. Still, they might help, and they have few side effects. ‌

You might benefit from nicotine replacement if you:‌

  • Use three or more tins or pouches a week
  • Use smokeless tobacco within 30 minutes of waking up
  • Swallow tobacco juice when you chew or dip
  • Aren’t on prescription medications to stop smoking

Prescription drugs work well for quitting smoking, but there isn’t much evidence for smokeless tobacco. Talk to your doctor about what treatments may be a good idea for you.

Tobacco products have lots of toxins that are dangerous for your health. With the right help and tools, you can quit smokeless tobacco.‌