JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Most people look forward to November as the month the holiday season begins, but it also offers a significant turning point for millions of Americans who have a habit that affects their health and endangers their lives.
The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, observed the third Thursday of November each year, encourages smokers to use that day to kick their habit or make a plan to quit smoking.
At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, the Health and Wellness Center and Rambler Fitness Center, together with the 502nd Air Base Wing, will observe the national smokeout with its annual turkey trot.
The 5K fun run and walk, open to all of JBSA, will begin 11 a.m. Thursday at the jogging trail, which starts at the end of Third Street West. Turkeys will be given to the top three finishers.
"We want everybody to come to the event," Shae Peters, JBSA-Randolph HAWC Health Promotions Program coordinator, said. "We'll provide tobacco cessation literature and resources and we'll be there to answer questions."
JBSA-Randolph's focus on smoking cessation doesn't begin and end with the annual turkey trot; it's an everyday mission. The HAWC offers monthly tobacco cessation and other classes to help smokers in their effort to quit the habit and, along with the 359th Medical Group, provides resources and pharmaceutical aids that assist smokers.
Among the other resources available are the American Lung Association's HelpLine at 1-877-695-7848 and online support such as http://www.ucanquit2.org, where people can make an online pledge to stop smoking.
"They're all part of the layered approach we use to assist people," Peters said. "Smoking' s a difficult habit to quit; nicotine' s every bit as addictive as cocaine or heroin. On average, smokers will try to stop smoking five to seven times in their lifetime."
The American Cancer Society estimates some 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. Another 13.2 million smoke cigars and 2.2 million smoke tobacco in pipes.
It's a habit with dire health consequences - from cancer and lung diseases to heart attacks and strokes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates smoking causes early deaths to nearly 443,000 people in the United States each year.
Peters said the four-session tobacco class offered at the HAWC helps smokers understand why they have an addiction, master the first few days of quitting and other obstacles, and remain smoke-free.
One of those obstacles is weight gain, which can be a problem for smokers who have quit the habit, Tech. Sgt. Helen Schlemper, JBSA-Randolph HAWC NCO in charge of health promotions, said.
"Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so what ends up happening is that people replace smoking with eating more," she said. "Their metabolism stabilizes and slows down. In addition, their taste buds change, so food tastes better."
Despite the difficulty of kicking the tobacco habit, the benefits of doing so are almost immediate, Peters said. Twenty minutes after smokers quit, their heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twelve hours after they quit, the carbon monoxide level in their blood returns to normal. In one year, their risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
"Bottom line, people need to develop a plan and be very active and mindful about quitting," Peters said. "We help them do that."
For more information, call 652-2300.