Rader Health Clinic offers tobacco cessation

By Catrina FrancisJuly 29, 2021

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States,
U.S. annual deaths from smoking (Photo Credit: Graphic by CDC) VIEW ORIGINAL

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of 2018, about 34 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Every day, about 1,600 young people under 18 try their first cigarette, and nearly 200 become daily cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths annually, including 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. For every American who dies because of smoking, at least 30 are living with a serious smoking-related illness.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s U.S. Army Rader Health Clinic offers tobacco cessation to assist Soldiers, retirees and Family members with quitting tobacco products.

Dr. Sharwanda George, the Rader Clinic’s clinical pharmacist, pointed out that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some improvement with individuals quitting smoking but losing ground due to the new variants.

To clinic’s tobacco cessation program provides quit aids and counseling to help those who want to quit using tobacco products. George said the program helps individuals with finding out what triggers them to smoke, which is why counselors are involved in the program. When a person says he or she smokes a pack of cigarettes per day, the program looks at triggers and the reason a person is smoking.

George said the initial appointment is made and then a follow-up appointment is done within two to three weeks later.

“I try to follow up those two weeks for a third time to see how things are going (and) to continue with refills,” George said. “A lot of these medications that we use for quit aids can be used for anywhere from 12 weeks up to 24 weeks. “Usually by the second follow up (a person) quits and (he or she is) OK.”

She added that a person can quit but can possibly have a relapse because he or she is going to face challenges. An individual might ask if it’s possible to take the quit aid longer to make sure there that doesn’t happen.

Although George said quit aids are available to purchase over the counter, she advises against doing that because those products are expensive and a person needs counseling as well as quit aids.

“If you just go and buy the item and you don’t get the counseling, you don’t get the underlying problem why you are using tobacco,” she said. “You might find yourself successful for a minute but you might relapse again. (An individual) needs to make sure they are using the right product, have the right dose and using it properly. The nicotine patches are available in three different strengths (and) the nicotine lozenge has two different strengths. Some don’t know you can use them together. That’s why you need to get the advice of someone who has completed training and knows how to use those products properly.”

George said tobacco and dip aren’t the only products people are using. She added that the younger generation believes that using vaping products and electronic cigarettes will lessen the amount of tobacco that’s being used, but that isn’t true.

“The marketing (is) this is a safe alternative when it really is not,” she said. “It depends on which product. Products like Juul can sometimes have as much as 50% more nicotine, (than cigarettes), it just depends on which (nicotine) product (because) it can vary. The same with hookah.”

George said since some of these products look normal, sometimes parents aren’t aware their child is using a tobacco-related product. Various flavors are also used to entice people to use those products.

“It’s like with taking medication … you flavor medication so that it increases tolerability so that the patients will take it,” said George. “These products with the different flavoring — that’s a marketing tool to enhance or get more people (to try them).”

She added that there are health benefits to quitting tobacco products because they are linked to other health issues.

“They are saying now that tobacco can be linked to back pain, it can be linked to headache pain (and) it can be worsen neuropathy,” explained George. “These are things we are trying educate patients about and of course COVID has been out there has been a lot of information out, especially tobacco, but these electronic delivery systems are really worsening or are putting individuals at an increased risk for these symptoms of COVID.

“I’m not trying to scare people, (I’m) trying to educate people especially those young individuals who start using tobacco early. (We are telling them) that the choices you are making right now, you might not see the immediate adverse effects, but you will reap the consequences somewhere later in life. You might not see it now (but) there is a chance you are going to see it later on in life. You (have to) make better decisions now for your future.”

George added that dip isn’t safe because it is more concentrated than a cigarette. Cigars aren’t safe either because depending on the size, one cigar can have the same nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.

To book an appointment for the tobacco cessation program, visit Tricare online, call (855) 227-6331 or contact George at (571) 248-1687.

Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil.