LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
The Lackland Health and Wellness Center and the 37th Medical Group are urging smokers to swap their tobacco break for a gourmet coffee and snack break - on them.
In observance of the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, the 37th MDG will be tobacco-free, offering gourmet coffee and snacks along with tobacco cessation materials in all of its buildings.
HAWC tobacco cessation class enrollment sheets will also be available for smokers interested in kicking the habit for good.
"The benefits of quitting are numerous," said Shannon Jones, HAWC licensed vocational nurse. "Within 20 minutes of the last cigarette, your body is already trying to heal itself and it continues year after year trying to return to the body of a nonsmoker."
Official dental records indicate that 17 percent of permanent party Team Lackland members are smokers. But the HAWC education program manager, Katia Heard, is hoping to reduce the figure to 12 percent by 2010 through one-on-one and group cessation classes.
"We offer classes in the morning and afternoon and all the materials, nicotine replacement products and Zyban or Chantix are free," said Ms. Heard. "Why not pick the Great American Smokeout date to quit smoking?"
"My last cigarette was April 19, 2007," said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Padilla, Air Fore Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnais-sance Agency. "I quit by using a relatively new product, Chantix. It took care of my physical addiction, which freed me to deal with the habits."
Sergeant Padilla, who smoked for over two decades has been nicotine-free for seven months since enrolling in the "Fresh Start" class at HAWC.
A smoking cessation class, the nicotine patch and Zyban helped Senior Airman Jesse Gonzalez, 68th Airlift Squadron, kick his 10-year habit on Sept. 18, 2006.
"It was time. I knew when I first started smoking that it would not be forever, but I didn't think it would take this long to quit," said Airman Gonzalez.
He had tried several times before to quit smoking but the longest he was smoke-free was a couple of months.
"Do whatever you have to do to get your mind off cigarettes and don't worry about what people who smoke and don't want to quit say. It's usually negative and will not help you," advises Airman Gonzalez. "Also, think of the money you'll save, especially if you're a heavy smoker like I was."
The cost of cigarettes and a desire to be healthier motivated Airman First Class Joseph Cunningham, 690th Intelligence Support Squadron, to quit. He took a tobacco cessation class in February and has been smoke-free ever since.
He said running has become easier for him since kicking his 14-year habit.
"High tobacco usage decreases your physical activity and increases stress fractures," said Ms. Heard. "So, if Airmen can stop smoking, it will help them be more successful in their physical fitness training."
Staff Sgt. Adam Albrecht, 651st Munitions Squadron, can attest to that. He quit smoking after taking a class in January.
"I finished my PT test one full minute quicker than I did last time, and I really have noticed the extra money that I have," said Sergeant Albrecht.
For more information about tobacco cessation classes, call the HAWC at 671-0566.