Cancer victim creates tobaccoless chew
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
by Amber Conger, reporter
The outline of a faded ring on the back pocket of a pair of jeans is often a telltale sign of a bad habit that, for some, lasts a lifetime.
But for Dave Holt of Whitehall, chewing tobacco had a shelf life and he knew the expiration date was up when his doctor informed him he had lymphoma.
Not that quitting was that easy for him; even with the sinister diagnosis hanging over him, Holt struggled to let go of the addiction. After packing a can of chew with him for over 45 years, he had a major adjustment to make.
When smokers quit, they tend to miss the ritual as much as the act. For chewers, it isn’t much different. Holt missed his Skoal and “feeling something in his lip,” but after his cancer battle and months of chemotherapy, he knew it was a battle he didn’t want to see play out again.
During his 5-6 hour chemotherapy treatments, he had a lot ot time to sit and think. And that is what he did. He thought about how to make a product that could prevent others from facing the same fate.
“I didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer through what I did,” he said.
They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and so Holt got to work. Inspired by his rural background and circumstance, he created a tobaccoless product made from ground alfalfa leaves right from his own ranch near Whitehall.
Alfalfa wasn’t the only thing he tried. His formulations ranged from coffee grounds to barley, to oats and everything in between.
“If I could find it, I chewed it,” he explained.
Time and time again he kept going back to alfalfa. As a former agriculture teacher, he knew of the health benefits of alfalfa and decided to move forward with an alfalfa based chew.
It was a labor of love that took almost four years. The efforts led to a product that was almost as good as the real thing, according to Holt.
Holt Alfalfa Chew retails for around $5 a can, comparable to the price of a can of traditional chew. The product is gaining popularity and what was once a 12 can a day operation has grown into a nationwide phenomenon and requiring production of up to 600 cans a day.
The formula combines alfalfa leaves with water, honey, peppermint, vitamin C, and cayenne pepper. Its popularity has skyrocketed, something Holt attributes to its unique differences from other tobaccoless products on the market. It is “designed for health,” he says.
All natural and Montana made ingredients don’t hurt either. It is so safe, he says, kids can buy it over the counter. The Montana Tobacco Prevention Coalition is teaming up with the Holts to spread the message about quitting, he said.
Locally, Brud Smith and County Commissioner Leonard Wortman have tried it and used it to quit chewing tobacco. Smith said he was more of a casual user of chew over the last 10-15 years, never buying his own chew, but always bumming it off of someone. Now he says he doesn’t have to do that anymore.
Wortman said that he chewed for around 30 years, “maybe longer.” He had quit for about a year and said this desire for a chew was as bad a year later as it was the day he quit. He was at a rodeo and bumped into Holt who gave him a few cans of his alfalfa chew and he never opened another can of Copenhagen again, he said.
“It just worked. The cravings went away. I think it is a great product,” said Wortman.
Men aren’t the only target customers, though.
“Little old ladies love this as tea. You can mix it with honey and drink it. It is kind of funny to see them walking around with cans of chew,” Holt said laughing. “Even dentists I know are recommending this,” he added.
There has been so much positive feedback on the alfalfa based product that there has been talk of building a factory locally to produce Holt Alfalfa Chew. The herbal snuff touts its Montana roots right on the label. Locally, L & P Grocery and the Montana City Store stock the herbal concoction, but it is also available for order online at worldsgreatestchew.com.
With this tobacco free product hitting the shelves, Holt says it might be a good time to spit out your dip and try something natural that could help you kick the habit for good.
“The timing has never been better to quit,” he says.