ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Every year service members and civilians around the country take advantage of the Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, to transition to a smokefree lifestyle. Quitting smoking is not easy, and it’s not a matter of willpower. The nicotine in tobacco is addictive, and that’s what makes quitting so hard. The good news is public health experts know more than ever before about what works best to help people quit. A smokefree life is possible, and there has never been a better time to try quitting than right now.
Why is the GASo Important?
The use of any tobacco product harms your health, readiness and resilience. Service members who use tobacco have reduced physical fitness performance, increased likelihood of sickness and delays in healing if injured. GASo supports the Department of Defense Tobacco-Free Living policy – adopting a lifestyle that avoids using all tobacco product types and living free from second-hand smoke exposure.
Historically, service members use all types of tobacco products at a higher rate than civilians. According to the latest “Tobacco use report on Periodic Health Assessment form” conducted by the Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division, from April 2022 - April 2023, 26 percent of service members smoke cigarettes – the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the US. More than half (51.61 percent) reported vaping, and of those exclusively using two tobacco products, the highest percentage (46.40 percent) smoked and vaped. These dual users may turn to vaping as a way to cut back or quit cigarettes. Dual use smoking and vaping is not an effective way to protect your health and is more harmful than using just one. No vaping product is an FDA-approved or medically-endorsed way to quit smoking.
Given the adverse health and mission effects associated with smoking and vaping, quitting is one of the most important things service members can do for themselves and others. For those who think that that they’ve been smoking and vaping for so long that it’s too late to quit, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s never too late to quit. Your age, how long you have served, smoked and vaped, does not matter. Quitting improves your health, now, and over the long term.
Quitting is hard. Find your own personal reasons for wanting to quit. It may be helpful to break this big task down into smaller and manageable pieces: You don’t have to stop smoking, vaping, or both, in one day. Start with day one. By participating in the GASo, you will be joining thousands of smokers and vapers across the country, take the first step toward a healthier life. If you are a non-tobacco user, help a friend or family member quit.
Taking the First Steps
As you prepare to take the first step, mark your calendar for Nov. 16 and consider taking these actionable steps:
- Tell family and friends your Quit Day and why you are quitting.
- Decide on a plan. Will you use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other medicines?
- Will you cut down on smoking and vaping as you prepare to quit?
- Will you attend a tobacco cessation class or counseling? If so, sign up now.
- If you and your medical team decide to use NRT medications, such as bupropion or varenicline, take your dose each day leading up to your Quit Day.
- Today, we know more about the science of quitting than ever before. Getting help through a combination of supportive counseling programs such as YouCanQuit2, smokefree.gov, Tips From Former Smokers, your state’s quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and medications significantly increases your chances of quitting successfully.
- Get rid of all the cigarettes, vaping and other tobacco products in your home, car, work and other places.
- Stock up on oral substitutes and use them – sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and/or toothpicks.
- Set up a support system. This could be a medical provider, tobacco cessation counselor, group program, friend or family member who has successfully quit and is willing to help you in a positive manner.
- Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke/vape.”
- Be assertive: ask family and friends who still smoke/vape to not do it around you, and not to leave cigarettes, vape or other tobacco products out where you can see them.
- Check out the Defense Centers Public Health – Aberdeen and Portsmouth sites for more information to help you live a life free of all forms of tobacco.
In the past, thousands have used the GASo to start their quit journey, and many are considering quitting this year. Join them. There’s no better time to quit smoking and vaping than now.
The Defense Health Agency supports our Nation by improving health and building readiness – making extraordinary experiences ordinary and exceptional outcomes routine.
NOTE: The mention of any non-federal entity and/or its products is for informational purposes only, and not to be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as federal endorsement of that non-federal entity or its products.