By Senior Airman William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Health personnel at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, advocate tobacco and electronic cigarette users kick the habit for good in recognition of the Great American Smokeout Nov. 15.
The American Cancer Society established The Great American Smokeout as a day to encourage tobacco cessation throughout the U.S.
“The goal is to lower smoking rates on base, and as a result we will have healthier Airmen,” said Carol Carr, Schriever AFB health promotions coordinator. Carr plans to host a Lunch and Learn 12 p.m. Nov. 15 in Building 500, disseminating information on how and why to quit.
Carr said those serving may sometimes be pressured to try tobacco by peers. She advocates against this, adding those who pick up smoking or other tobacco use in the military may not directly feel the Health Problems it causes, as many service members fall between the 18 — 40 age group, where the long term effects are not as apparent.
“A lot of people may sometimes think ‘oh I’ll be 40 when I retire, my health is not an issue while serving,’ but you can feel those effects early, and if you continue to smoke, you will definitely feel the effects when you’re older,” she said.
Carr said there are many resources available through personal care managers to help Schriever Airmen quit, such as free nicotine patches, gum and one-on-one counseling.
Staff Sgt. Katherine Exparza, 21st Medical Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of force health management, is one of these resources. Exparza, a former smoker, provides tobacco cessation counselling to help Airmen quit. She shared her struggles after deciding to quit smoking when she became pregnant.
“It was definitely a struggle for me, especially changing a routine — I always wanted to smoke after having a cup of coffee or a meal,” she said. “I just had to alter my schedule and stay away from temptations. Different quitting methods fit different people.”
Exparza recommends Airmen do not try to quit alone.
“You have to be mentally prepared to quit,” she said. “Have a support system and someone to keep you accountable, it makes things much easier.”
While the Great American Smokeout is one day, the ACS, like Carr and Exparza, encourage people use the time as a stepping stone toward quitting for good.
According to The Center for Disease Control, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. More than 16 million Americans live with a disease and or other health defects because of smoking, and on average smokers die ten years younger than non-smokers.
Additionally, smoking related fires cause millions of dollars worth of damage each year, and healthcare for smokers costs the U.S. billions.
It’s not just the taxpayers in general who lose money, but the individual as well. For example, on average, pack-a-day smokers spend more than $9,000 a year to fund their habit. This is expected to increase as the costs of cigarettes and other tobacco products continue to rise throughout the country.
While American society has taken a much stricter stance toward tobacco use compared to a few decades ago — where individuals could order cigarettes from their hospital bed and smoke onboard airplanes — smoking continues to be prevalent in the population, as of 2018, more than 30 million Americans smoke.
In recent years, electronic cigarettes have become popular alternatives to traditional tobacco use; often marketed as a healthier option.
Carr said this is misleading as many of the chemicals and substances in electronic cigarettes and other vaping products are unhealthy.
Additionally, many contain nicotine, the addictive chemical which gets people hooked on tobacco use, and can lead to smoking and using actual tobacco.
“The best alternative is to not use electronic cigarettes or tobacco products at all,” Carr said. “Vaping and electronic cigarette use can easily lead to actual tobacco use, and the containment of carcinogens and other things bad for your health are found in these devices.”
Carr encourages Airmen who use tobacco products or vape to use their services to quit, not only for their benefit, but for the Air Force as a whole.
“Tobacco use will catch up with you,” she said. “We’re here to help you get to the proper resources before it does.”
For more information about tobacco cessation resources, contact Carr at 567-4292.