Smokeless tobacco on the jobsite

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Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who told me that he chewed tobacco while he was sitting at his computer because it gave him something to do. He’s a graphic designer. Hmm. Gives you something to do? Well, I actually can relate, being a tobacco user in the past. I can understand that the addiction of tobacco necessitates ritual times and settings to use—certain times of the day, certain activities, certain places, etc.

tobaccoThere are facts about tobacco’s physical dependence—because of nicotine content—that can’t be denied, and all products—per the FDA—need to be labeled as such (see image, right). The National Cancer Institute states at least 28 chemicals in smokeless tobacco have been found to cause cancer. The most harmful chemicals in smokeless tobacco are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which are formed during the growing, curing, fermenting, and aging of tobacco.

According to the American Cancer Society, data collected in 2012 showed that about 3.5% of people aged 12 and older in the US used smokeless tobacco—about 9 million people. Use of smokeless tobacco was higher in younger age groups, with more than 5.5% of people aged 18 to 25 saying they were current users.

By no means is any of the following scientific in nature but just my observations of tobacco use and the psychological dependence users have with it. I caught up with Matt Baldwin—a smokeless tobacco user for the past 10 years—to gauge his using habits and to see, if at all, using tobacco affects his job site performance.

The following is a candid Q&A with Baldwin:

Do you chew while on the job?
Yes, I use on the job daily.

Do you chew more when you are bored either at work or home? Explain.
Baldwin: I chew more equally at home and at work; it is more of a ritual than actually wanting to do it at this point. When I am bored, I actually tend to chew less because I almost forget to do it.

Certain tendencies where you find yourself chewing more?
Baldwin: I always chew after a meal. The most crucial times are after my morning coffee, after a meal, during my shower and while driving. However, I usually find it NECESSARY to chew while watching TV.

I know it is different than taking a smoke break, but does dipping at all change work habits?
I don’t find that it affects my work habits; however, I’ve never worked without it so I guess it is so ingrained in me that this is just how I work, no questions asked.

Have you ever attempted to quit? If so, for how long? Reasons for quitting other than health reasons?
Baldwin: I never have attempted to quit. There was a period in which I stopped for four months, which I call being forcibly removed from the habit rather than choosing to take a break. I have been trying to cut back recently, but have found it to be very ritualistic and more difficult than I anticipated.

FYI: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act went into effect in October 2009. This law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) power to regulate tobacco products in the US. One of the goals of the law is to restrict the marketing and advertising of tobacco products—including smokeless tobacco products. Colorful ads and store displays are no longer permitted. Only black and white text ads are allowed. Since 2010, all outdoor tobacco ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds have been illegal.


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