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Kick habit during Great American Smokeout

by Monica Mendoza

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Quitting smoking won’t be easy. The nicotine, which is deep in a smoker’s lungs and bloodstream, is highly addictive. When a smoker quits nicotine, he or she goes into withdrawal — becoming dizzy, depressed, anxious and irritable. Those symptoms could last three days; they could last three weeks.

“Statistically, tobacco is the hardest drug to quit because it is easily accessible and it’s legal,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael DeCarmo, 21st Space Wing Health and Wellness Center NCOIC.

But, consider this: 20 minutes after a smoker has their last cigarette, their heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twelve hours after the last cigarette, the carbon monoxide level in the person’s blood drops to normal. Two weeks to three months after the last cigarette, a person’s circulation improves and lung function increases, according to a 1990 U.S. Surgeon General report.

And, for the 16 percent of Peterson Airmen who smoke, finally getting rid of those cigarettes could be the difference in passing the aerobic portion of the new Air Force physical fitness test, which beginning in January, will account for 60 percent of the overall PT test score, Sergeant DeCarmo said.

“I should see a wave of people wanting to quit so they can improve on their run,” he said.

Sergeant DeCarmo is asking all Peterson Air Force Base smokers to give up the cigarettes for just one day — Nov. 19 — for the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. The idea is that if a person can quit for a day, he or she might make it through a second day and so on, Sergeant DeCarmo said.

To help, the HAWC will host a tobacco cessation class from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Nov. 19 in Building 560. Sergeant DeCarmo won’t lie to you. It will not be easy.

“I don’t give false hope,” he said. “One false thought about the cessation program is that the program will make you quit.”

The smoker must be ready to quit, Sergeant DeCarmo said. It won’t work if a person is trying to quit because a spouse is nagging or because a supervisor told someone to quit, he said.

“I want them to be in the action stage,” Sergeant DeCarmo said. “The success rate will be much higher.”

Two decades ago, more than half of all Airmen smoked. Across the Air Force, that number is down to 32 percent, according to the 2005 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors among active duty personnel. Peterson’s Health and Wellness Center offers tobacco cessation classes the first and third Thursdays of the month to treat both the psychological and physical addiction through behavior modification counseling. The American Cancer Society says that if a person quits smoking by age 35, he or she will add eight years to their life.

Sergeant DeCarmo said smokers should pick a day to quit. Tell their friends and family. And practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”

· The 2009 Great American Smokeout is Nov. 19

· The 21st Space Wing Health and Wellness Center will host a Tobacco Cessation class from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Nov. 19 in Building 560. Smokers also can stop by the HAWC anytime for a “Help Quit Kit.” For future cessation classes at the HAWC and more information, call 556-4292. For more information on how to quit smoking, go to www.Ucanquit2.org.

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