The Great American Smokeout
By Mark Tschampl, 366th Aerospace Medicine Squadron / Published November 18, 2015
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Nov. 19, 2015, commences the 40th Annual Great American Smokeout, an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco for 24 hours and raises awareness of the many effective ways to quit for good.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, responsible for approximately one of every five deaths - approximately 443,000 people - each year. Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, various forms of cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Cigarette smoking can also have adverse effects on your family. Roughly 50 percent of children in the United States have detectable levels of cotinine; the breakdown product of nicotine, in their blood. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
Although tobacco rates are on the decline for both military and civilian populations, 16 percent of United States Air Force active duty members still use tobacco. Mountain Home AFB has one of the highest tobacco rates in the USAF with 21 percent of active duty members using tobacco. According to the ACS, if you are a pack-a-day smoker, it costs you approximately $1,825 per year to support your tobacco habit. At one pack a day, you are smoking approximately 7,300 cigarettes per year and are using 487 hours of your life to smoke for every year you continue to smoke. Therefore, tobacco users burn both time and money.
How does tobacco use affect the military? In a 1997 USAF study, tobacco use accounted for 3,573 lost man-years due to sick time, breaks and other lost duty which is the equivalent to losing one Air Force Base.
Tobacco's impact on readiness includes a 20-50 percent reduction in night vision, significant decrement in tracking longer reaction times, and an increase risk of musculoskeletal injuries. For deployed individuals who don't have access to tobacco products, rapid nicotine withdrawal adversely effects cognitive function and visual acuity.
If you have ever thought about quitting, now is a great time; with multiple options available to assist you with successfully participating in the Great American Smokeout and potentially turning a one-day challenge into a smoke-free lifetime success story. The Health & Wellness Center offers a one-time tobacco cessation class twice a month, lasting about two hours in duration. The class can also be brought to your squadron or flights if enough people within your section are interested in quitting.
There is also online help at ucanquit2.org or telephonic counseling at 1-844-426-3733 for those unable to attend the traditional classroom course. Tobacco cessation medications are available free to active duty members, civilians, retirees and dependents. Please contact the HAWC at 208-828-2175 for more information about tobacco cessation and how we can help you quit the habit for good.