By Leejay Lockhart, Fort Campbell CourierNovember 23, 2016
November is tobacco cessation month, and for tobacco users on Fort Campbell the post offers resources that are available all year to help them quit.
While it is well documented that tobacco is a source of health problems, Fort Campbell still has high rates of tobacco use among Soldiers said Maj. Danielle Nichols, chief of public health nursing.
"We know tobacco use can have an impact on your health as well as the health of others around you, and although we've seen a decline in recent decades we still see a subset of the population that reports either use of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products," Nichols said. "So to try and avoid negative health effects we are urging folks to reassess their tobacco use and either try to reduce that use or stop completely."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that 480,000 people die from cigarette smoking each year. More people in the U.S. die from smoking each year than the combined total deaths from guns, car accidents, alcohol, illegal drugs and HIV.
Stopping tobacco use not only reduces chances of developing chronic diseases associated with tobacco use like lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema but it provides immediate improvements to health. Levi Scheeter, a health promotion tech with Fort Campbell's preventive medicine, said within a few days of stopping tobacco use, people will experience lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and improved vision.
"The benefits only get greater as time goes on," Scheeter said. "[Tobacco] narrows blood vessels so it always affects anything with blood going to it, which is every organ of the body and every area of the body."
While it is beneficial for a person to stop using tobacco, it is not easy to do because tobacco contains nicotine.
"Nicotine is very addictive and there are more than 7,000 other chemicals that a person can be exposed to through smoke," Nichols said. "So it can be very difficult for folks to stop."
She added that it takes on average seven quit attempts to stop using tobacco.
"It is harder to get off nicotine from the statistics than it is to get off of heroin," Scheeter said.
Nichols said people should not let an unsuccessful attempt to quit using tobacco discourage them, because even a failed attempt to quit can help bring people one step closer to finally quitting tobacco.
"There's a ready to quit class which is offered every Tuesday, and that's the primer for the four-week cessation class, it will let folks know what to expect and anticipate for the [cessation] class and it will also help them assess their readiness to quit," Nichols said. "It maybe helps highlight some things for them that will help increase their likelihood of quitting."
After a person has attended the ready to quit class, which is from noon until 1 p.m. every Tuesday, he or she can attend the four-week tobacco cessation program, which is the first through the fourth Wednesday of every month from noon until 1 p.m. All classes are at the Fort Campbell Army Wellness Center, 5662 Screaming Eagle Blvd.
There is no single approach to quitting tobacco and to be successful each person must find reasons to quit using tobacco. Often tobacco use is part of a person's daily routine and people must find healthier behaviors as substitutes for smoking or dipping. The tobacco cessation class is for people who have decided to quit. The class assists those people with their plan to quit so they will not start using tobacco again.
"When you are providing tobacco education, you talk about triggers, all of those are the same for smoking tobacco, dipping tobacco, chewing tobacco and even for e-cigarettes they all have the same triggers," Scheeter said. "Some of these triggers you can't get rid of, you can't stop eating, that's always going to be a trigger maybe, but you have to learn how to cope with it."
The tobacco cessation class is an interactive class that provides education and activities for those wanting to quit. There are group activities, questionnaires and other methods to help people address issues that result in tobacco use.
The class is important because the numbers of tobacco use are so high. Scheeter said the civilian average for tobacco use is 16-17 percent, while from the health of the force report the military average is 32 percent and Fort Campbell's usage rate is 38 percent, with higher rates self-reported among junior enlisted.
The class is available for all TRICARE beneficiaries and DOD identification card holders. People interested in the class can call 270-956-0100 to speak with preventive medicine about scheduling classes.
Although it takes long-term thinking and a commitment to stop using tobacco, it takes time for the body to recover from tobacco use, which includes exposure to radioactive polonium particles.
"It is good to stop for a day. It is good to stop for a week, but there are [good] things that continue to happen at one month, six months, a year, two years, five years and so on," Scheeter said. "Looking long term you have to be stopped 15 years before health status to that of a nontobacco user."