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Kick tobacco to the curb with Health and Wellness Center

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado – The Air Force discourages the use of all tobacco products due to the damaging results to personal health, ultimately detracting from unit mission readiness and poor professional appearance. Tobacco use is prohibited on the installation except for in designated areas. Tobacco includes, but not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, stem pipes, water pipes, hookahs and smokeless products. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado – The Air Force discourages the use of all tobacco products due to the damaging results to personal health, ultimately detracting from unit mission readiness and poor professional appearance. Tobacco use is prohibited on the installation except for in designated areas. Tobacco includes, but not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, stem pipes, water pipes, hookahs and smokeless products. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado -- Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Air Force Corporate Health Information Processing Service, 16.1 percent of Airmen and 11.4 percent of Airmen in Space Command are tobacco users.

Tobacco use includes, but is not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, stem pipes, water pipes, hookahs and smokeless products (chewed, dipped or sniffed).

Peterson's smoking cessation program began in October 2012 with 16.7 percent, or 628 total Airmen who were tobacco users. Thanks to the program's effectiveness, those numbers are down to 10.4 percent, or 363 total Airmen. Peterson is one of two Air Force bases highlighted in the Department of Defense Implementation guide for their process.

Want to quit? Call the HAWC and say "I want to quit tobacco," answer some questions and the wellness coach will put in a referral to the pharmacy care clinic for medication, if desired. Within a week of that phone call the member should have the tobacco cessation medication in hand.

Also, the cessation program does not require classroom time to learn how bad tobacco is, television and radio commercials already remind users every day. Instead, the pharmacy can discuss the use of medication and the wellness coaches at the HAWC are available for one-on-one counseling, if desired. This slims down the process by three to four weeks, said E. Lindsay Buckalew, HAWC health promotion flight commander. 

The wellness coaches will discuss anything from random cravings to social support.

"It's very individual, some people have cravings and they tend to overeat or have sort of unhealthy coping mechanism," said Buckalew. "What we try to do here is to give them healthy coping mechanisms."

Buckalew said cravings usually last for approximately five minutes and users who find a healthy coping mechanism to distract them from the craving will be more successful in quitting. Some of the strategies the coaches describe are exercise, a healthy snack, relaxation techniques and even using a favorite app on their phone.

People also need social support and a plan if their partner or friends still smoke, or if they smell cigarette smoke while they are out with friends.

In addition to the Peterson program, Colorado also has an excellent resource - the state quit line.

Like most states, the Colorado State Quit Line has trained coaches that will call people, develop a plan, follow up, and even text them. Users will discuss how ready are they to quit, establish a quit day, the use of medications, and weaning off versus quitting cold turkey.

"Don't give up. You have to do it for you, not for anyone else or because of anything else," said Buckalew. "It's not because the Air Force told you to or because it's bad, we already know it's bad, but to make the action happen it's got to be internalized, it's got to be emotional and personal."

Are you ready to quit or just want more information on the Smoking Cessation program? Call the HAWC at 719-556-4292 or visit the Colorado State Quit Line at www.coquitline.org.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui