The Reality of Dipping Tobacco - From a Girl

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One of the first things I realized when I joined the military was how popular smoking was. It was my first day of basic and I'd been dropped off by my parents and left to put away my things and try to make friends with the group of people that I would be spending the next month of my life training with.

I ended up following them to the smoking hut, a wooden roofed structure with the concrete floor covered in butts and ash and spit. I was rather surprised, and slightly put off, that the majority of people I had met so far in that day, both guys and girls, were smokers. As I leaned against the edge of the hut, trying to ignore the distinct smell of the smoke, watching my fellow recruits suck on their cigarettes and flick their ashes on the ground, I made a note to myself: tI was happy that I didn't smoke, and never wanted to.

Two years and some months later, I'm fully trained, a Corporal, and still not a smoker. That I can be proud of. I'm still around it, however, although I don't spend nearly as much time hanging around smoking areas. The majority of fellow soldiers I know smoke, either regularly or occasionally. Part of the military culture perhaps, or a habit taken up before they enrolled. My boyfriend, who is also in the military, smokes as well. It's common.

One would assume that if you were to be tempted by any tobacco product, it would be the one that is the most common – and that's cigarettes. Even though the laws against smoking have become more strict, it hasn't thwarted those who are addicted.

I'm sad to say that I fell victim to a more uncommon, and depending on who you ask, a less attractive form of tobacco – and that's dipping tobacco or smokeless tobacco. I had the same thought process when one of my buddies took out this Skoal can and crammed this minty-smelling wad of dark mossy-looking crud into his lower lip, and proceeded to spit dark brown globs into his empty coffee cup. Thank God I'm not doing that – that is absolutely disgusting.

That was my first run in with dip – and I had to actually enquire as to what it was. He extended the open can out to me and told me with a grin to find out for myself.

That's not when I started. I refused, and continued for the next few months to gawk at the few guys in my unit that “dipped”, packing their can between their thumb and middle finger with a loud smacking sound, and proceeding to put this disgusting looking tobacco into their mouths. I was appalled, I was grossed out, and then one time I tried it.

I was actually surprised with how it tasted. Skoal Mint was my first flavour. I took a small pinch, as recommended, from one of my fellow soldiers and put it into my lip. I couldn't keep it in one place, got some on my face, and my buddy laughed as I took my first spit onto the grass. Oddly enough, however, the taste was good. Very minty. And not being used to nicotine, I got a head-rush.

That was it.

From there on, I took an enjoyment in dipping, exclusively at work, accepting some when it was offered, and shocking those around me who realized it wasn't coffee in my Tim Horton's cup. I enjoyed the head-rush and boost of energy and alertness that the tobacco provided. It made long weekends of being staff on a basic training course, where little sleep was gained, more tolerable and my job easier to do.

Within a couple months, I had started buying my own cans. Although since I used it only at work, one can would last me longer than the product was good for – it would end up drying up before I used all of it. But I was still using it. Of course, the mentality arose that, if I'm only doing it once in a while, there'd be no harm. The warnings of mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss on the sides of each can didn't apply to me, because I was only using it once and a while. I saw those pictures on Google of the men with half of their jaws missing and thought, they must've been doing it for all their lives. Right?

Wrong.

Within a couple months, I started using dip more frequently. At one point I would go through a can in a week or less. Aside from being an expensive habit, (here in Nova Scotia, they go for anywhere from $20-$25), I was also become dependant on the nicotine. I would get snappy and irritable if I went a few days without it. And I began to notice the physical effects of it on my gums and teeth.

Faint yellowing of my teeth and noticeable gum recession started to occur. On my bottom teeth, I'm probably going to need at least two skin grafts because of how much the tobacco was worn down my gums. That's not a cheap process, and doesn't necessarily fix the issue.

I hadn't even been dipping tobacco for a year.

That right there was my motivation to quit. There's a myth out there that dipping tobacco is safer than smoking and it doesn't affect you as quickly. The label that says “This is not a safe alternative to smoking” on the cans is true. I have caused damage to my gums and teeth by using it for less than a year, and time will tell if I will see any sort of trouble long term.

I don't hate dip. There are still days that I think about having some, and crave how it tastes. However, in my opinion: it's not worth it.

Do you or anyone you know use dipping tobacco?

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