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I had my first chew just before my 17th birthday. I remember it vividly. About to embark on a 21-day backpacking trip to Wyoming, a friend warned me that my smoking habit might make breathing and hiking difficult at high altitudes. He helpfully suggested that I try spit tobacco and even offered to teach me. Years later he would still boast about teaching a girl to chew.
He initiated me to the pleasures of chewing tobacco one night before we left for the trip. I remember learning to pack down the chew in the tin, snapping my wrist like my friend did, and I remember the sickly, minty smell. I had been a smoker for over three years at that point. Nicotine was not new to me, until my first dip. The buzz I got was stronger than one from any other substance I had tried at that point. My head spun, my heart raced, and an incredible surge swept through my body. Nauseous and dizzy, I had to sit down immediately. So this was chew, I thought. I didn’t get sick, and it didn’t even hurt my mouth. After a few more dips, however, I came to …