Graves Fitness Center hosted the Great American Smokeout fitness fair Thursday in an attempt to stop smokers from lighting up.

The smokeout, designated as the third Thursday in November each year by the American Cancer Society, began in 1977 as a day for smokers around the country to quit smoking for a day in the hopes they will want to give up completely.

Fort Belvoir's own version of the smokeout came to Graves with fitness assessments, nutritional advice and information booths.

Goody bags were available to encourage smokers to quit and included mints to replace to cigarettes, a stress ball to keep hands busy and a list of tips to stop smoking.

MWR teamed up with DeWitt Health Center to put the event together. "We wanted to give individuals different options, whether they're looking at changing from a sedentary to active lifestyle or using tobacco to being tobacco-free," said Anthony Poore, MWR fitness coordinator.

Fitness equipment was on hand with MWR employees at the ready to show patrons how to use them properly. Outdoor Recreation had a booth that featured members of the installation hiking club, and the aquatics program featured flyers promoting their programs.

Outside establishments also set up shop at the fair to promote total body wellness, including MyBodySpa and the Bradley Spine Center.

People might not initially associate a spa in an effort to stop smoking, but MyBodySpa wellness education specialist Charmaine Ringwood sees a natural link.

"Smoking is not a part of wellness," said Ringwood. "It ruins your body's natural function. For us, being here is a perfect fit, because we talk about total body health and offer options for help."

April Phelps, health promotion coordinator at DeWitt, felt the fair was an opportunity to motivate people to quit using tobacco and served as a launch pad to do full lifestyle changes.

To cover more ground, Phelps said more people were stationed at the Home and Garden shop and PX/Commissary. "We want to make sure we get the word out," she said.

Sign-up sheets were available for people willing to quit smoking for periods of 24 hours to six months. Those who signed up for the six-month break and committed to a smoking cessation course through DeWitt were entered in a raffle for amusement park tickets.

Phelps said smoking poses a serious threat for servicemembers because it "decreases mission effectiveness."

Most people immediately associate smoking with an increased risk of cancer, but as Lt. Col. Leonardo Martinez, chief of preventive medicine at DeWitt, pointed out, there are other real but lesser-known threats.

"Nicotine has an effect on the optic nerves in the eye, and it damages the retinas. Research has also been done that says smoking affects your hearing. Your sense of taste is different and it does damage to your nervous system. For males, it can even result in impotence," Martinez explained.

"The list goes on," Phelps agreed. "You're paying someone to put toxic chemicals in your body."

For more information on smoking and how to quit, visit the American Cancer Society Web site at www.cancer.org.

Page last updated Fri November 28th, 2008 at 08:18