Did you know that just 20 minutes after a person quits smoking, their heart rate and blood pressure drop? And after 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood returns to normal? This Nov. 16 is the Great American Smokeout -- an event to encourage smokers to make a plan to quit using tobacco for the day and go smoke-free for 24 hours.

About 42 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths each year, or one out of every five deaths. According to the recent Department of Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors, at least 24 percent of our military personnel reported smoking cigarettes.

Smoking is especially hazardous for our Soldiers. Tobacco use decreases Soldier readiness by causing impaired night vision, respiratory illnesses, delayed wound healing, increased surgical complications and accelerates hearing loss. Tobacco not only stains your teeth, but also causes tooth decay, gum disease and various types of cancers. In addition, smoking decreases oxygen in the muscles, leading to decreased physical performance.

Breathing secondhand smoke also affects the health of other people. Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 harmful chemicals, leading to serious health effects such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. It causes health problems in infants and children such as asthma, bronchitis and other lung diseases. According to the CDC, over the past 50 years, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died from secondhand smoke.

So on Nov. 16, join people around the world to support quitting tobacco for the Great American Smokeout. If you smoke, make a pledge to quit. If you don't smoke, help someone quit.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the day:
• Plan ahead.
• Change your daily routine for that day to help you break the habit such as taking a different route to work.
• Remove cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters and matches in your house, car or other locations.

Plan alternatives or substitutes for smoking such as:
• Chew sugar-free gum, eat carrots or suck sugar-free hard candy.
• Picture something pleasant in your mind.
• Go for a run.

If you feel an urge to smoke, use the 4 D's:
• Delay the urge. Count to 100 or 200. Wait 15 minutes.
• Drink water. Water flushes out the nicotine toxins.
• Deep breaths. Deep breathing relieves stress.
• Do something else. Distract yourself. Talk with a friend or co-worker.

All of us should take this day to quit or help others kick the habit to attain a tobacco-free lifestyle. Do you want to help someone else to quit? Frustration, anxiety, irritability and mood changes are normal reactions when a person quits smoking, so:
• Be encouraging.
• Be available to listen.
• Be understanding.

Although the Great American Smokeout encourages you to quit for just one day, it could be the first step toward being tobacco-free for life. Commit to quit and take an important step toward a healthier life.


For more information on tobacco reduction and cessation, visit these websites:

Army Public Health Center, https://phc.amedd.army.mil

U Can Quit 2, http://www.ucanquit2.org

American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/i-want-to-quit/

American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/index

Become an EX, Online Tobacco Cessation Program, http://www.becomeanex.org