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When quitting is OK: HAWC offers tools to kick habit

By Airman 1st Class Katie Hickerson | Wingspread staff writer | Dec. 18, 2007

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Randolph Air Force Base celebrated another year of "Giving Tobacco the Boot," recognizing the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout campaign. 

Each year, the third Thursday in November, Americans everywhere are encouraged to give up smoking following a national education campaign highlighting the variety of cessation resources available and improved health benefits of quitting smoking. 

This year the Health and Wellness Center along with the Fitness Center sponsored the Great American Smoke-Out 5K Run. "Cold Turkeys" were raffled off after the race to participants. Along with the run, media displays have been set up around the base with tobacco information. 

Master Sgt. Keith Steele, 12th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, used the HAWC as a resource to quit smoking after 33 years. 

"Military personnel have even more resources available to them than most of their civilian counterparts," Sergeant Steele said. "I wanted to quit for years for health and appearance reasons, but it wasn't until I was offered the opportunity to take the Smoking Cessation class through the Health and Wellness Center that I was truly inspired to give it a real try." 

According to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2004, people who quit smoking, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke and quitting substantially decreases the risk of lung, laryngeal, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder and cervical cancers. 

"The HAWC is important to military personnel in that it offers alternatives and assistance to help you reach your optimum health potential and live a healthier lifestyle," Sergeant Steele said. "It's not so much what I learned through the HAWCs Smoking Cessation classes that ultimately led me to give up smoking as much as it's what I took to heart." 

While helpful, readily available and often successful, not all success stories require outside help from an organization such as the HAWC. 

"I made the choice not to hurt my body anymore and to be more healthy by giving up smoking cold-turkey," said Tech. Sgt. Michelle Childress, Air Force Manpower Agency manpower analyst. "I realized what I was doing to my body after observing others who had been smoking for 20-30 years and decided for myself that I didn't want to look and feel like they do. It was enough motivation for me." 

The Great American Smokeout is part of the American Cancer Society's Great American Health Challenge, a year-round initiative that encourages Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles. 

The HAWC has developed a cessation program modeled after other nation-wide cessation programs, but caters to the needs of the Air Force in order to keep its troops healthy and fit to fight, said Lorri Tibbetts, Health and Wellness Center's Health Education Program Manager. 

"The HAWC and the Tobacco Cessation classes have an abundance of resources and are here to help tobacco users who want to quit," Ms. Tibbetts said. "We urge tobacco users to learn more about quitting and to make a plan to begin a tobacco-free life."
"No one will quit if he or she is not motivated," Sergeant Steele said. "However, if they choose to quit, now is the time to do it." 

"To quit smoking is a lifelong decision each individual must make for him or herself," Sergeant Childress added. "They can't be pressured or forced into quitting from friends or relatives; each person has to choose to be healthy for themselves." 

For more information on Tobacco Cessation, call the HAWC at 652-2300.