By Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas – Most of the 38 million American adults who smoke want to quit, yet only 30-40 percent are able to quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smokers who want to quit but don’t participate in a smoking cessation program fail 95 percent of the time.
That’s where the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center’s Army Wellness Center comes in.
“Kicking the habit is hard, but we can definitely help increase your chance of success,” said Christy Norwood, tobacco cessation coordinator at the AWC. “Often people come to us and say they want to quit, but then find they aren’t that serious about it and aren’t successful. But for those that come to us and are 100 percent committed to doing what it takes to quit tobacco for good, we can ensure they accomplish their goals.”
The AWC’s Freedom from Tobacco program helps participants to become tobacco free through education, support, counseling and medication.
Norwood explained the program, “At the start, we do an assessment of their habit—what products they use, how often and how long they’ve used them. We give them a thorough education about the chemicals in different tobacco products and the damage being doing to their bodies. We stress the benefits of quitting to their health. We tell them about all the resources available and the different medications such as nicotine replacement therapy, patches or gum that could help with cravings.”
Medication alone often isn’t enough to help most people quit, Norwood said. In her experience, tobacco users also need a plan in place to help them with behavior modification.
“So much about smoking is more than just the addiction to nicotine. It’s about the reasons why you smoke and how those habits have become ingrained in your lifestyle. It’s a stress reliever. It’s a social thing. Some people smoke all the time, others smoke just in certain situations,” she said. “So we look at everything that is going on in their life. What challenges do they have that may impact their plans to quit? If they tried to quit in the past, what brought them back to it?
“Then we can help create a personalized plan. We look at the best way to help you make small behavior changes that can help wean you off your dependence on tobacco and develop healthier lifestyle habits.”
Norwood warns that switching from smoking cigarettes to smokeless tobacco or electronic cigarettes is not a healthy choice.
“Chewing tobacco is actually just as addicting and just as dangerous. It actually has three to five times more nicotine than cigarettes and can lead to oral and throat cancers,” she said. “A lot of people also think that vaping or electronic cigarettes are safer for them. However, it is not FDA approved. We don’t know what effects the chemical reactions in electronic cigarettes may have on your lungs. Also, there’s a safety issue, as there’s been many reports of them exploding.”
It is tough to quit tobacco altogether, but it is possible, as long-time smoker Doris Syty can attest to.
Syty smoked some two packs a day since she was a teenager. Due to health issues, she had to stop smoking immediately and finally quit for good 15 years ago.
“I quit cold turkey. It was extremely hard to do and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that pain and aggravation to anyone,” she said. “Smoking is such an addicting habit that’s tough to stop, even when you know it’s bad for you and everyone around you. I think that going to support groups is definitely the best way to help you quit. You’re surrounded by others who have the same goals and you can learn from and motivate each other. The hardest part is taking that first step and ask for help.”
The AWC’s Freedom from Tobacco program is available to all active duty Soldiers, family members, retirees and DA civilians, no referral necessary. Call (254) 288-8488 to enroll or find out more information.