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NIDA. (2014, October 2). Stephen Strasburg’s Commitment to Quit Tobacco. Retrieved from

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The NIDA Blog Team
October 2 2014
Stephen Strasburg

Today, there are more former smokers than current smokers. But many of them didn’t say “I need to quit smoking” once or twice—it took several attempts. And for “dippers” (people that use chewing tobacco), it can be just as hard, if not harder. In fact, dip and chew contain more nicotine than cigarettes.

Tobacco addiction is drug addiction—and it’s very hard to stop.

Washington Nationals’ star Stephen Strasburg knows this struggle well. In June 2011, he vowed to quit after his mentor, Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn, was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer, which Gwynn believed was because of his chew habit. And in 2014, Gwynn died at the young age of 54.

The death of his mentor hit hard, and Strasburg is upping his game and taking on tobacco once again—publicly saying that he is ready to do the hard work of quitting tobacco. This is no small challenge for anyone addicted to nicotine, but it is especially hard for him and other baseball players to kick the habit when it has been part of their professional culture.

The Cost of Starting Young

Strasburg started using dip when he was a teenager. He wanted to be just like the Major League Baseball players he saw on TV—many of whom used smokeless tobacco. Starting out young is part of what gets people hooked. For smokers, nearly 9 out of 10 adults started before they were 18. In fact, young people who start using tobacco early will have more trouble quitting than people who start later in life. You might think it will be easy to quit when you’re older, but 3 out of 4 teens who think they will quit smoking in 5 years don’t.

Make a Commitment and a Plan To Stop                                                    

Quitting tobacco is about saving your health, and, for many, your life. It’s awesome that Stephen Strasburg is not giving up. He didn’t succeed in 2011. And he may not quit for good in 2014. But if he keeps trying, he can find a way. Quitting tobacco, whether it’s smokeless or cigarettes, is not something you do on a whim. You have to want to quit and to make a plan for how you are going to get through those first couple of weeks.

For people like Strasburg who use chewing tobacco, there are alternatives like sugar-free gum, sunflower seeds, and even a mint-leaf snuff that can give you something to chew on while you get over your addiction to nicotine. Many teens find they can do it with the support of sites like Smokefree Teen, or by talking with their parents or doctors. If your friends use tobacco too, it might help if you all quit together. So make a plan, choose a quit date, and find out how much better you feel tobacco free.

Do you struggle to quit using tobacco? Or did you quit? Tell us what’s worked for you in the comments below.