Army readiness pushes tobacco cessation
May 10, 2012
Ditching tobacco use saves more than money. At least that's what some Army Soldiers are hoping for as they join cessation classes to help kick a habit destined to harm the ultimate bottom line -- individual PT scores.
"I realized no matter how much I pushed, my run just kept going the other way -- it got worse," said Sgt. Whitney Farrow, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, a four-year Army veteran and 20-year smoker.
And with the Army's 80,000-person draw down over the next six years, Farrow said he didn't want his PT score to be a factor that harmed his future in the military.
The science is simple.
One cigarette contains 4,000 toxins -- 50 of which are carcinogenic. Breathing in the toxic smoke causes the lungs to become inflamed. Oxygen is then transferred less efficiently. The body isn't getting the oxygen it needs to show a marked improvement in physical performances.
Recognized as a readiness and health issue, tobacco-use has been linked to increased numbers for sick call visits and incidences of cold weather and training injuries, according to the Army Public Health Command.
But Farrow didn't need a tobacco cessation class to tell him that smoking and dipping are bad for his health. The statistics and warnings are screamed at him everyday via the surgeon general warning on cigarette packs and ads on television.
So what does the class provide that a 20-year smoker finds helpful? Two things -- group support and an option for non-nicotine medication.
"One of you is going to fall," said Luther Jones, health promotion technician with the Department of Preventive Medicine at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, as he spoke to Soldiers enrolled in the May tobacco cessation class session.
"All of you might fall. You've got to get back up."
The success rate for tobacco cessation classes in the Fort Bliss and El Paso region is about 23 percent. The statistics reflect a nation-wide reality of failing attempts to quit tobacco use.
As the May 2 class ended, Soldiers gathered around a table to share their techniques -- tried and failed -- for quitting.
"It's not about learning stuff in these classes," said Spc. Jacob Nay, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, a seven-year Army veteran and a five-year dipper.
"It's about the support from the others enrolled."
"The easiest thing to do is to quit smoking because you can do it 700 times in one week," said Spc. Michael Ghabour, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, a three-year Army veteran and a 15-year smoker.
The hard part, said the Soldier, is the commitment.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that medication and support used together can double a person's chances of successfully stopping smoking.
At Fort Bliss, between 80 and 90 percent of people who enroll in the cessation classes pursue medications such as the nicotine patch, Zyban or Chantix.
Ideally, program organizers want those interested in medications to enroll and take the four-class session at the same time, said Bruce Gramlich, health promotion program manager at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
Information and requirements as well as risks associated with the non-nicotine medications can be obtained from primary care physicians and physician assistants.
Tobacco cessation classes on Fort Bliss are open to all beneficiaries enrolled in DEERS. The four-class sessions occur every month and include speakers on respiratory therapy, stress management, nutrition services and financial readiness.
For more information on tobacco cessation classes, call (915) 742- 1869.