Great American Smoke Out

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. It takes time. And a plan. You don’t have to stop smoking in one day. Start with day one. Let the Great American Smokeout event on the third Thursday in November be your day to start your journey toward a smoke-free life. You’ll be joining thousands of people who smoke across the country in taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing your cancer risk. (Graphic illustration courtesy of the Defense Health Agency) (Photo Credit: Defense Health Agency)
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Lung Cancer Awareness Month takes place in November and presents an opportunity to raise awareness about Soldiers, smoking and lung cancer risk.

While there are other causes of lung cancer such as radiation exposure, radon gas, and asbestos, cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor. Cigar and pipe smoking, and secondhand smoke are also lung cancer risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and more people die from lung cancer than any type of cancer. This is true for both men and women.”

Similarly, lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Veterans.

Also, more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths occur among nonsmokers each year.

Soldiers who smoke face the same lung cancer risk as their civilian counterparts.

Active duty Soldier tobacco product use
The 2021 Health of the Force report, the U.S. Army Public Health Center’s annual report of key indicators that impact readiness and Soldier well-being, shows that of the active-duty Soldiers who reported tobacco product use, smoking was the most reported behavior at 15 percent, followed by smokeless tobacco at 11 percent, and e-cigarettes at 9.1 percent. Lung Cancer Awareness Month takes place in November and presents an opportunity to raise awareness about Soldiers, smoking and lung cancer risk. (U.S. Army Public Health Center photo illustration by Jason Embry)
(Photo Credit: Jason Embry)
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The 2021 Health of the Force report, the U.S. Army Public Health Center’s annual report of key indicators that impact readiness and Soldier well-being, shows that of the active-duty Soldiers who reported tobacco product use, smoking was the most reported behavior at 15 percent, followed by smokeless tobacco at 11 percent, and e-cigarettes at 9.1 percent.

The 2021 Army National Guard Health of the Force report showed that Soldiers reported a smoking rate of 14 percent.

Smoking product use among active-duty Soldiers is about the same as that in the U.S. population.

Soldiers use e-cigarettes for various reasons. Scientific research has raised concerns that e-cigarette use and vaping may also increase lung cancer risk. E-cigarette devices and vaping liquids have been shown to contain a series of both definite and potential oncogenes – genes that in certain circumstances can transform a cell into a tumor cell. Given the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, continued concern is warranted.

Although using e-cigarettes or vaping devices has been thought of as safer than smoking, Dr. Marc A. Williams, a toxicologist and an e-cigarette and vaping expert in APHC’s Toxicology Directorate, cautions there is considerable uncertainty due to the complex mixture of chemicals in vaping aerosols. Many of these chemicals are not intended to be inhaled to the lungs, where adverse health effects are likely to start.

“There is a lack of quality control standards in the safe manufacture of these devices and products, which should make us all deeply skeptical or at least questioning of the general safety of these devices,” said Williams.

There are things Soldiers and Families can do to prevent or lower lung cancer risks:

Don’t smoke

If you have never smoked, don’t start.

Be secondhand smoke-free

Secondhand smoke comes from burning tobacco products, and is smoke that has been exhaled. Awareness of secondhand smoke can help smokers understand that it potentially hurts others – not just themselves. The best way to protect against secondhand smoke is through 100-percent smoke-free environments. Opening a window, moving to a separate area, or using ventilation or a fan does not eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. Making your home and car smoke-free creates safe environments where Soldiers and Families live, learn, work and play.

Quit

Much more is known about the science of tobacco cessation now than ever before. Research shows that smokers who use evidence-based tools to help them quit are more likely to succeed than those who do not use such tools. Here are some resources Soldiers and Families can use to help them kick the habit:

  • Education for Individuals. This APHC webpage offers a number of links to resources to assist Soldiers, Civilians and Family members reach the goal of tobacco-free living, defined in DoDI 1010.10 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention as “adopting a lifestyle that avoids using all tobacco product types and living free from second-hand smoke exposure.”
  • YouCanQuit2. This is a Department of Defense education campaign that helps Service members quit tobacco.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the nicotine patch or gum or a prescription medication. E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved cessation device. Contact your primary care provider to discuss the best NRT for you.
  • Tobacco cessation counseling.

Use the Army Community Resource Guide to find out about counseling resources on your installation. Using a combination of these tools raises success rates even higher.”

The U.S. Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.

NOTE: The mention of any non-federal entity and/or its products is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as federal endorsement of that non-federal entity or its products.