I began using smokeless tobacco in my early teens, having grown up on a farm and watched both my father and grandfather use tobacco while working with them. Many of the “cool” guys in middle school during the early 80s were starting to use Skoal, so I started dipping snuff to fit in with them. At the time, I could buy a roll of 10 cans for $7.00, so it was not too expensive to start. I watched the price then go to $1, $2, $3 and on up to above $6 a can when I finally decided it was time to quit about 40 years later. I had kept telling myself that I would quit one day, but never did.
Then one day in late November 2022, I had an appointment with my dentist for my annual teeth cleaning. He had known for years that I dipped and had been checking my gums each time to ensure that they were not changing color. On this occasion, he told me that I had begun to show signs of leukoplakia, white patches in the mouth where I had kept the dip and are the first signs of mouth cancer. It scared me enough to start thinking of quitting again, but I continued anyway.
What finally woke me up was a conversation in late December with my 14 year old son who asked me why I continued to dip if it meant that one day I may not be around to see him grow up, get married, and know my grandchildren. He told me that I had always been his role model for strength and discipline, but I was showing weakness by not giving up this unhealthy habit. That was the spark that I needed. I had one unopened can of Copenhagen from a roll that I had purchased a few days earlier that I decided to give to a coworker with the pledge that I would not buy another can unless I asked for this can from him first. On the back of the can I wrote “By opening up this can, I am admitting that I am weak, soft, and have no self discipline. Open up and enjoy defeat”. I never asked for that can from him and never will, I will never look back and will never start back. The withdrawal symptoms that I endured the first few weeks were at times almost unbearable, but I never gave in to the temptation to dip. I knew it was best to suffer then than to suffer even more in the future from possibly getting mouth cancer. I can now sleep better at night knowing that I am living my life dip free.