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Lackland medical campus to become tobacco free

By Capt. Eric Dean | 59th Medical Wing Facilities Management | Jan. 6, 2012

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — In accordance with the Air Force Surgeon General's tobacco policy, the 59th Medical Wing campus, and all outlying facilities, will become tobacco free effective Jan. 1, 2012, eliminating all designated smoking areas and use of tobacco products.

Tobacco products are currently defined as cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and dip. Commercial off-the-shelf smoking cessation aids will be authorized as staff and beneficiaries make the transition to a tobacco-free environment.

The AF/SG advises that tobacco use is inconsistent with a fit and healthy force and continued use of tobacco products by Airmen results in significant impact to the mission. The Centers for Disease Control have shown lost duty time from smoking in the Air Force amounts to 3,573 full-time equivalents per year--equal to the loss of an Air Force wing.

"This is a significant impact," said Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, 59th Medical Wing commander. "But, more importantly are the serious health issues associated with tobacco use."

Air Force fitness data shows increased run times for smokers compared with non-smokers, and health data indicates smoking impairs night vision, reduces physical endurance, and increases the time it takes for wound healing. Tobacco also harms an Airman's long-term health and second-hand smoke threatens wingmen, friends, and family. However, despite these concerns, Air Force tobacco use remains at 23 percent and Lackland Air Force Base is at 17 percent.

"The 359th Medical Group, our component group at Randolph AFB, Texas, adopted a tobacco-free policy at their MTFs in 2006 and their tobacco usage rate dropped from 16.8 to 11.6 percent," Hepburn said. "They have saved $22,397 in smoking-attributable costs and 144 workdays and are an outstanding example for us to follow."

On Jan. 1, the following Lackland facilities and their surrounding parking/grassy areas will adopt a tobacco-free policy: Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center; MacKown, Dunn and Kelly Dental Clinics; Reid and Kelly Family Medicine Clinics; Total Energy Plant; Camp Bramble Readiness Training Facility; Robotic Pharmacy; Drug Testing Lab; Administration/Vaccine Health; Blood Donor Center; Clinical Research Facility; Hansen Hall; Refractive Eye Surgery Center; and all storage facilities located on 59th MDW campuses. The 59th MDW Facilities Management Office will post "no smoking" signs around each building and in the outer parking lots.

"I recognize, for a percentage of our medical staff and patients, the loss of a designated tobacco use area at these facilities may ultimately drive a lifestyle change--that's the goal," Hepburn said.

The Lackland Health and Wellness Center offers various tobacco cessation options including a 4-week tobacco cessation class for all eligible Department of Defense beneficiaries. Tobacco "quit lines" are sponsored by Wilford Hall, the American Lung Association, the Texas Department of Health Services and the American Cancer Society. Call the HAWC at 671-0566 or 671-1993 for more information about these services. The Zeitgeist Wellness Group also offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) free of charge (up to 5 sessions) to any staff member and is strictly confidential. The link to this program is www.zeitgeistwellnessgroup.com.

"We in the 59th MDW are dedicated to the health and wellness of all our personnel and our beneficiaries. As members of the Air Force Medical Service, we should lead by example," Hepburn said. "I encourage all tobacco users to take advantage of the HAWC cessation options and I'm counting on all personnel to assist in this positive workplace change."