JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Brooke Army Medical Center marked a tobacco-free milestone with a sledgehammer-wielding butt-can smash and removal of the last standing smoke shack June 1.

"We are proud to say that, as of today, BAMC is tobacco free," BAMC Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Crews said.

"It's a tremendous thing we are doing here," said Debbie Bray, RN, CNS, pulmonary clinical nurse specialist and one of the butt-can smashers.

BAMC began its tobacco-free journey on Feb. 1, when patients, staff and visitors to BAMC were informed that they soon would no longer be able light up, chew, or use any tobacco product -- whether cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, vaping devices, cigars or pipes -- on the facility's campus. The medical campus includes all property owned, operated, maintained or leased by BAMC, to include the hospital, outlying facilities on Fort Sam Houston and parking lots.

While the policy was instantly in effect for service members, civilian staff and patients were given until June 1.

"We understand tobacco is a hard habit to break," added Col. Gerald Dallmann, chief, Logistics Division. "But we strongly believe that the benefits far outweigh the challenge of quitting."

As health risks have come to light, tobacco use has become far less prevalent in society throughout the years, he noted. Smoking rates among adults and teens are less than half what they were in 1964, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Still, 42 million American adults and about 3 million middle and high school students continue to smoke despite the evidence that links smoking to diseases of nearly all organs of the body.

With the public's health in mind, tobacco-free medical facilities have become increasingly common throughout the nation, Crews said, noting the majority of San Antonio's hospitals already have joined this effort.

"We are proud to be tobacco free and promote a healthy environment for our patients, staff and visitors," Crews said. "As a system for health, becoming tobacco free is the right thing to do and demonstrates our commitment to health and wellness."

To help staff comply with this policy, BAMC has expanded its tobacco cessation support and services to beneficiaries and BAMC's civil service staff members. To register for tobacco cessation services, contact BAMC Health Promotion by calling 916-7646/4626.