Time to quit smoking is now

By Alvina Bey Thornton, RN, Chief, Health Promotions, Kenner Army Health ClinicNovember 19, 2015

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FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 19, 2015) -- There is probably not a person on the planet who hasn't heard about the health impacts of tobacco use. In fact, most smokers and many young children can give the "bad news" about tobacco.

And if that isn't bad enough, smokers have become the outcasts in most social settings … relegated to the smoke shacks, gazebos or hiding in their vehicles in parking lots all over the country.

It's a sad commentary for people who are addicted to a legal drug -- manufactured, marketed and sold for convenience.

Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, even when used as intended, are the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States.

There's no "safe" tobacco product. So, why do people smoke? Some of the responses may include: "I smoke because I like it." "I'm bored." "To get a break." "When I quit smoking, I felt like I had lost my best friend -- one who is always there for me and never lets me down." "We're all gonna die from something." "I know it's a bad habit, but I just can't give it up."

The use of tobacco products has been glamorized, normalized and romanticized over the years seducing young and old alike into its lure. The truth is it's not just a bad habit. It's a powerful physical and mental addiction that is hard to overcome. For so many others, exposure to secondhand smoke causes many of the same debilitating and chronic diseases and conditions associated with active smoking. For some who are extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke, when you can't breathe, nothing else matters.

Electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) are devices that deliver nicotine to a user by heating and converting to an aerosol a liquid mixture typically composed of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavoring chemicals and nicotine. The claim e-cigarettes emit only harmless water vapor is simply not true.

Although e-cigarette aerosol delivers lower levels of many toxins than cigarette smoke, the aerosol still contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, other toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Users inhale a heated propylene glycol or glycerin-based solution for which there are no long-term studies. Many e-cigarette users think they've found a safe substitute for the real thing, but they have not.

Inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette instead of smoke from burning tobacco seems like a healthier alternative and since e-cigarettes are often allowed in non-smoking areas, users and those exposed may have more exposure and risk from secondhand vapor.

Army Regulation 600-63 states "Using tobacco products (to include cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, smokeless tobacco and/or electronic cigarettes, inhaled tobacco, and all other tobacco products designed for human consumption) harms readiness by impairing physical fitness and by increasing illness, absenteeism, premature death, and health care costs. Readiness is enhanced by promoting the standard of a tobacco-free environment that supports abstinence from, and discourages the use of, any tobacco product."

So, you want to quit? Then pause for the cause. Join Kenner Army Health Clinic on Nov. 19 for the 2015 Great American Smokeout: SMOKE BREAK! Everyone could all use a breath of fresh air even if it's just for a day. Not only will is this a stand it's also a chance to celebrate Tobacco-Free Living Champions who are showing everyone how to break the bonds of nicotine addiction.

For more information, contact Alvina Bey Thornton in the Preventive Medicine office by calling (804) 734-9304 or emailing alvina.b.thornton.civ@mail.mil.