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Nancy Walker, nurse health educator at Naval Health Clinic Quantico, left, and Semper Fit intern Laurel Jimenez man their Great American Spit Out booth, raising awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco, at Bruce Hall Feb. 19, 2014.

Photo by Mike DiCicco

Clinic, Semper Fit support Great American Spit Out

19 Feb 2014 | Mike DiCicco

Nursing one wad of dip for half an hour results in three cigarettes’ worth of nicotine intake, while two cans of dip per week contain as much nicotine as one to one-and-a-half packs of cigarettes per day.

These were among the facts Nancy Walker, nurse health educator at Naval Health Clinic Quantico, and Semper Fit intern Laurel Jimenez were advertising as they visited various locations around Marine Corps Base Quantico during the week of Feb. 17 to 21 in support of the Great American Spit Out, a smokeless tobacco awareness day, which was Feb. 23.

At their table in Bruce Hall on Feb. 19, the pair had stress balls, sugarless gum and cans of “snuff” made from mint leaves, among other tobacco cessation aids, as well as literature.

Their tour was in support of the Healthy Base Initiative’s tobacco cessation effort, Walker said. The day before, they had been at the Davis Building, and the next day, they would visit The Basic School.

Jimenez said it’s important to have a separate awareness campaign for smokeless tobacco because of the misconceptions that surround dip and chewing tobacco. “They think, ‘Well, I’m not smoking, so I’m not hurting my lungs,’” she said.

However, in addition to high blood pressure caused by nicotine, smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, bladder and pancreas, as well as tooth loss and receding gums. It also increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Jimenez noted that military service members use all types of tobacco at significantly higher rates than civilians, with many of them picking up the habit while deployed. “They’re bored, and they’re also on edge, so they develop these habits,” she said, adding that a culture that is more accepting of tobacco use is also a factor.

According to a 2008 study by the Department of Defense, the Marine Corps had the highest rates of both smoking and smokeless tobacco use among the services at the time, with 21.5 percent of Marines using smokeless tobacco, compared to 16.2 percent of soldiers, 9.8 percent of sailors and 8.8 percent of airmen. Only 2.6 percent of civilians were found to use smokeless tobacco.

“I get more smokers in my office, but maybe the dippers just aren’t coming in,” said Patricia Padgett, nurse health educator at the clinic, who has been a tobacco cessation coordinator for the last eight years, adding that she sees one smokeless tobacco user for every two or three smokers.

Padgett said she offers 90-minute, one-on-one counseling sessions for tobacco cessation. Helping patients to quit, however, is not the most important goal. “They know how to quit,” she said. “They’ve done it five, six, seven, eight times.” She said she focuses on lifestyle and behavioral changes that help people not to relapse.

The clinic’s pharmacy also offers nicotine patches and gum, as well as antidepressant and psychotropic medications that reduce nicotine cravings.

Monthly tobacco cessation classes are also offered at Barber Physical Activity Center. The next class will be March 19 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico