Quit smoking. Live longer.
Nov. 17 is the Great American Smokeout
LUng disease, heart disease, damage from secondhand smoke and even possible issues with impotence – the ill effects of smoking are well-known. As the Nov. 17 Great American Smokeout approaches, it stands repeating: Tobacco does a lot of damage to the body, but the effects can be reversed by simply kicking the habit.
“Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure drops,” said Air Force Col. Thomas Moore, a preventive medicine doctor and in charge of health promotions for the Air Force Medical Support Agency. “In a couple of weeks to a few months, your circulation is improving and lung function increases. You will also see decreased coughing and shortness of breath, as well as fewer infections. Longer term, five years after kicking the habit, your risk of dying from mouth, throat and bladder cancers is cut in half. And 15 years after stopping, your risk of heart disease is back to normal. The damage is not irreversible.”
That’s why the Military Health System (MHS) offers many resources to help active duty, retirees and family members quit the habit. The UCanQuit2.org website offers advice on how to take those first steps to crushing out those cigarettes, help finding a local tobacco cessation program, and even live support with expert coaches ready to chat.
“Smoking reduces lung capacity, causes blood vessels to narrow raising blood pressure, and causes several cancers, among other things,” said Moore. “Besides the immediate effects of lighting up, over time, the cumulative years of doing it can lead to more serious problems, including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even osteoporosis. Secondhand smoke is also a likely trigger for an asthma attack in children.”
Working with the National Cancer Institute, MHS is looking for winners who can outsmart Big Tobacco. A tobacco trivia contest called tXtobacco tests knowledge of the dangers of tobacco use and directs participants to resources for quitting. While designed for active duty service members following basic training (both smokers and nonsmokers), tXtobacco’s sponsors are encouraging everyone to take part. The contest aims to reduce the number of military personnel who begin or reinitiate tobacco use.
“Quitting smoking can be tough, and it can take a while,” said Paul Fitzpatrick, manager of the Defense Health Agency’s Quit Tobacco program. “People need all the help they can get. But the more information and resources you have, the more likely you are to succeed.”
He added after you decide to quit, you need to make a plan and set a quit date, put that plan into action and stick with it.
Fitzpatrick also pointed to the nationwide Cold Turkey Trot, also Nov. 17, when military installations around the world will hold fun runs and walks to help distract people from cigarettes during the Great American Smokeout. Nonsmokers are encouraged to participate, and the event is also a way to burn off a few extra calories going into the Thanksgiving through New Year’s holiday season.
Moore acknowledged just how tough quitting smoking can be, as the nicotine in tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known. He said that’s why it’s so important for those in the military and their families to find a way to stop.
“Kicking the habit is a high priority for us in military medicine,” said Moore. “We’re helping develop policies and programs that will help everyone be tobacco free.”