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Quit tobacco for one day, quit for a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Candy Miller
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
The health and welfare of Airmen are primary concerns of the Air Force as it looks to maintain a fit force. That's why the Health and Wellness Center here is helping support the Great American Smoke Out Nov. 19 and the service's Quit Tobacco Month.

Brian Todd, HAWC health educator, said as of Nov. 9, Sheppard is below the 17.5 percent national average of smokers with 12.7 percent, but his goal is to make that number even smaller.

Mr. Todd said there are a lot of negative health issues involved with tobacco and health is of the utmost importance.

"We're concerned about the members' health because the affects of tobacco are not conducive to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces," he said. "There is a big reality that these Airmen will be in conflict and they need to be physically able to complete the Air Force's mission."

Mr. Todd uses the Great American Smokeout, a national observance, as a tool to show people that quitting tobacco is possible by challenging users to quit for one day. 

The annual observance has been used since 1977 to inspire the nation to quit together.

"We hope it motivates you to quit for two days and progress to quitting for a week and continue to improve until you quit for a lifetime," he said. 

He said most people quit about four times before it becomes a lifetime commitment, but if someone wants to quit using tobacco products, the smoke out can help start the process.

Mr. Todd said one of the issues people struggle with when quitting a tobacco product is finding another avenue to relieve stress.

"There are other ways to deal with stress; you can work out, read, write or find another productive hobby," he said. "You would be surprised to realize how much time you have been wasting for smoke breaks."

The health educator said the risks of lung cancer, coronary diseases and other illnesses far outweigh the benefit of stress relief.

"It's amazing how much healthier you feel when you actually quit," he said as he reflected on his own addiction as a former smoker. "Some people feel ill their first couple weeks of quitting, but that's just their lungs trying to clean themselves up."

Mr. Todd said when someone gets the urge to smoke, it often only lasts about five to 10 minutes. But, he said finding simple distractions can prevent someone from picking up the habit again.

"Having friends that use tobacco can make it difficult to quit, but you have to decide that you won't even entertain the thought of using tobacco again," he said. "I've been there and I can provide first-hand experience to help anyone that wants to quit."

About three years ago, Mr. Todd stopped using tobacco products for the eighth and final time because of a normal day when he set down his pack of cigarettes in the living room. His then-2-year-old son, Don, picked up a cigarette and began to mimic his father smoking.

"It was a huge wake up call," he said. "I realized that my son looks up to me and I don't want him to put himself at risk for serious health issues."

He said it was very difficult to give up the habit, but he dug down deep inside to evaluate what triggers the urge to smoke and found different ways of dealing with them.

"I put pictures around the house of my son," he said. "Whenever I wanted to smoke, I saw my son's photo and decided that it's not worth it. Don is very health conscious and doesn't want to see me smoking again."

Don often brings up the old habit to his father and reminds Mr. Todd of why he quit.

"Dad, remember when you used to smoke," the 5-year-old asks Mr. Todd. "That was stupid."

The health educator said teaching the tobacco cessation class at the HAWC and performing his day-to-day duties helps remind him everyday of why he quit smoking.

For more information on quitting tobacco, contact the HAWC at 676-3035.