Keesler can help you keep your resolutions <br> Part one: quit tobacco

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Heather Heiney
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of four on common New Year's resolutions.

For many people the New Year brings with it the desire to start fresh, set goals and do something to make themselves better in one way or another. While not everyone creates a resolution each year and those that do tailor their goals to their specific needs, four of the more common resolutions are to quit smoking, be healthier, help others and learn more. Each week throughout the month of January, this series will explore the four resolutions above and how different Keesler agencies can help individuals reach their goals.

Week one: Quitting tobacco.

The fact that using tobacco kills people is not debated. And yet people still choose to do it.

Whether their reason for starting is because they had a high level of stress in their lives, felt peer pressure as a teen or they simply enjoyed the act of smoking or chewing tobacco, it is a highly addictive substance and they often have a difficult time letting go of the habit later in life.

Chief Master Sgt. Angelica Johnson, 81st Training Wing command chief, said that she started smoking when she was in basic training because at that time smokers got an extra 15-minute break. She said that several years later she decided to quit because it made her feel bad, smell bad and the habit costs too much.

"It was not easy to quit smoking, but I am so glad I did," Johnson said. "They did not have a health and wellness center back then. My supervisor and friends helped me tremendously. I also stopped hanging around people who smoked."

While some people will chose to use tobacco the rest of their lives, there is help out there for those who want to quit. Here at Keesler, the health and wellness center has a certified health educator and other resources available to active duty members, their families, retirees, and Department of Defense employees.

Some options include:

· A four-week tobacco cessation program in which participants meet weekly to discuss the how and why of tobacco use, how to successfully make it through the first few tobacco-free days, how to overcome obstacles and how to stay quit for good. Active duty members, family members, and retirees enrolled in the class also have the option to receive free tobacco cessation prescriptions.

· The HAWC also partners with the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking quit line, a 12-week counselor-assisted program. Participants initiate the call, inform the counselor that they're at Keesler, call once a week with updates and receive counseling over the phone. Blood pressure readings are also required and can be taken anywhere or at the HAWC. Participants will also have free access to tobacco cessation prescriptions.

· The website is a DOD-sponsored tobacco cessation website available to Tricare and Department of Veteran's Affairs beneficiaries who are trying to quit. It offers a live chat option which can help if a craving strikes. There are also games, a savings calculator and a message board available.

In 2012, the HAWC helped 213 individuals quit tobacco and their goal for 2013 is to decrease tobacco use on Keesler from 16 to 13 percent of the population.

Terri Jordan, health promotion manager at the HAWC, said, "The ultimate Air Force goal is to have a healthy and fit force."

Updates to Air Force policy taking effect in March may help those who are thinking of quitting take the next step. Air Force Instruction 40-102, Tobacco Use in the Air Force, restricts the number of locations on base where tobacco use is allowed. So, users may have to walk further to and from designated tobacco areas and for some people, this may mean that they don't have time during their breaks to use tobacco.

"It may be a very difficult transition for the smokers. We could lose some productivity up front because of the issue, but it is more important that we make the base a safe and healthy environment for all," Johnson said.

"This change is focusing on the positive side by promoting this as a change for the members that will have major benefits now and for the rest of their lives. This base has great role models of health and fitness and we hope that this will catch on across the base and Keesler will be the leader for health and wellness for all members," Jordan said, "I think with all Keesler members supporting and educating this new policy we will have a smooth transition implementing these changes."

"I think health costs will be reduced. Airmen will, in fact, be healthier and less sick. That will improve productivity in the long run," Johnson said. "Healthier Airmen are more resilient and better prepared for long hours, working and adapting to an uncertain environment and can better endure extreme conditions."

If someone is on the fence about quitting tobacco, they should consider some of the major benefits including increased physical endurance, better health and more money to spend elsewhere.

"It is important for people to quit tobacco to reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases.
Tobacco use also slows recovery time from illnesses and injuries. Quitting is not only beneficial for your own health, but also for the health of others around you. Second-hand smoke also increases the risk of all of the above mentioned diseases," Jordan said.

For those who decide to quit in 2013, visit the HAWC or call 228-376-3170.