RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
November is Tobacco Cessation Month and Nov. 20 is a day set aside by the American Cancer Society as "The Great American Smoke-Out." People are urged on that day to, at the very least, momentarily cease using any kind of tobacco.
"All of it is bad, whether it's smokeless tobacco or cigars, cigarettes ... you name it," said Lorri Tibbetts, Health Education program manager at Randolph's Health and Wellness Clinic. "We are constantly trying to make people aware of how dangerous tobacco is, period.
"November is our month to sort of put a spotlight on the dangers involved with the use of tobacco."
Amid its focus on total bodily health and awareness, the HAWC targets tobacco users with a range of programs that take place weekly, monthly and throughout the year. Tobacco cessation programs can work for some people, given the chance.
"I smoked for a long time - 33 years - but I quit with a smoking cessation program here at Randolph," said Senior Master Sgt. Keith Steele, 12th Medical Operations superintendent. "I think it was a four-week course and we went twice a week. They educate you on the effects of tobacco and how it affects your body.
"Then they educate you on the benefits of quitting. As you go through, you set a date you want to quit. You don't have to quit when you first start the program. I've been done with cigarettes for two years."
He said part of the education process was learning how a person's body begins to breathe again after elimination of tobacco.
"When you smoke, the body is not getting the correct amount of oxygen it needs," Sergeant Steele said. "After you smoke for a period of time, it becomes just a routine. It's an unhealthy and dangerous routine."
Sergeant Steele also gained some weight after quitting, but also improved and increased his personal workout routines.
The HAWC also conducts programs like "Quit for Life" and "Yes You Can" that aid in educating people on dangers of prolonged tobacco use. These typically last a few weeks and can involve medication.
Mark Williams, Air Education Training Command, Program Management Flight deputy chief, smoked over 30 years before quitting with the help of a HAWC program.
"It lasted two weeks and we would meet from 11 a.m. to noon each day, so I could do it on my lunch break," said Mr. Williams. "There were several medications available and I chose one, used it for about three months, and was able to quit smoking."
Tobacco use was romanticized by media for years and only in the past few decades have campaigns been launched to reveal its dangers. Mr. Williams, a retired major, said when he joined the Air Force in 1980, personnel were allowed to smoke in their offices and at their desks.
"My wife was a smoker, too, but quit through a similar program at Lackland Air Force Base," Mr. Williams said. "We'd buy our cigarettes on base by the carton, and we'd go through at least five cartons a month. After we quit, we probably saved $140 to $160 each month just from not smoking."
"Freshstart" is the newest program offered at the HAWC, which also advertises a national telephone hotline and several online Web-based programs for tobacco users hoping to quit.
"The telephone 'quit lines' are useful to people in a number of environments," Tibbetts said. "If a person is TDY, for instance, they can still go online or call the phone number to speak with counselors, at all hours of the day and night."
Counselors and medical personnel are available at 800-548-8252 with information on lung health and other issues related to tobacco problems. Online assistance and information is available at www.ucanquit2.org or firstname.lastname@example.org