“I am a smoker/chewer.” Saying that 25 years ago was a way of showing yourself to be glamorous, sophisticated, grown-up, and even intelligent. It merely meant that you had a simple practice of lighting up or taking a dip–a habit you shared with over half the men and over a third of the women in our country. But times have changed! Being a chewer today makes you feel as popular as a leper in ancient times. In 25 years, smoking and chewing have gone from being a perfectly acceptable, even desirable, habit to a socially unacceptable, demoralizing behavior.
But chewing is more than a habit–it is an addiction. Being a chewer is synonymous with being a drug addict. This creates a whole new set of problems. A chewer doesn’t dip by choice, he or she has to chew. The chewer must dip in certain time intervals. If not, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms. This posed no threat 25 years ago. A chewer could chew at home, work, restaurants, hospitals, doctors offices, actually anywhere and anytime he or she wished. It was the perfect drug for an addict. The only time a chewer faced withdrawal was through carelessness–like running out of chew in the middle of the night–but this did not happen often.
However, slowly over the years more and more restrictions have been placed on where a chewer can get his or her “fix.” In the beginning it was enforced by “radical” family members or friends. Restricting the chewer’s/smoker’s right to use tobacco was considered to be in poor taste by most tobacco users and non-tobacco users alike. These early activists were often criticized and ostracized by those sympathetic to the tobacco user’s plight.
But then the effects of second-hand smoke became an issue. With the possible health implication for non-users becoming apparent, the anti-smoking forces had powerful ammunition to support their contention that they had the right to a smoke, and chew-free environment. More people banned smoking in their homes. Then small municipalities and whole states started regulating mandatory non-smoking areas in public places. But the strongest threat was not the restriction on smoking or chewing in public areas. A chewer could avoid such places or limit the times there.
The newest and greatest threat is now becoming an all too common reality. No-tobacco rules are being enforced in the one place the chewer has to be for extended periods of time–the office where he or she works. Some employers are providing out-of-the-way areas where users can chew at breaks. But other companies are totally banning chewing or smoking on the premises. This creates the problem of 8-hour withdrawal periods on a daily basis. A chewer or smoker may wish to change his or her place of employment to avoid such regulation, but there is no guarantee that the next company won’t eventually enforce a similar policy.
Today, chronic withdrawal is becoming a way of life for a chewer. Chewing is a hassle at home, at social gatherings, and now, due to the enforcement of new tobacco policies, even at work. Where is it all going to end? The simple fact is that, for the tobacco user, it isn’t. Chewing is beginning to interfere with all aspects of the chewer’s life, and every chewer must now ask him or herself the same question, “Is chewing worth it?”
© Joel Spitzer 1987
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.