On Nov. 15, this country will celebrate its 37th annual “Great American Smokeout” which is held every third Thursday in November to encourage tobacco users to quit smoking for the day and ultimately, quit forever.  Not surprisingly, more people quit smoking on this day than any other day of the year.

Everybody should know that tobacco use contributes to many diseases. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that an alarming 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to second hand smoke each year.

Despite all the warnings and risks broadcast to the public, 46.6 million Americans still smoke tobacco. The use of tobacco costs the United States $193 billion annually in direct medical expenses and lost productivity. To put it in a different perspective, smoking related illnesses are responsible for more deaths in America than homicides, suicides, motor vehicle accidents, drug and alcohol abuse, and AIDS combined.

A 2009 Department of Defense survey indicated that 31 percent of the Army Soldier population smokes tobacco while 16 percent have used smokeless tobacco in the past year.

The Army Surgeon General has identified the specific need to focus efforts on reducing tobacco use within the military to 12 percent matching the goal of Healthy People 2020.

Smokers have their own personal reasons why they desire to become tobacco free.

The most common reasons are long term health benefits, financial gain, not smelling like an ashtray and improving physical performance. The Department of the Army has even identified tobacco use as negatively impacting military readiness.

Modern cessation methods which include medications and group classes, help tobacco users succeed more than ever before.

Womack’s Army Medical Center’s Department of Preventive Medicine offers a highly successful program which includes tobacco cessation classes to assist with those efforts.  The “Get Ready to Quit” information session is an introduction and prerequisite to the four-week Tobacco Cessation Program. It is offered every Thursday, at 11:30 a.m., at Sports USA complex on Longstreet Road.

Benefits of the ready-to-quit session include looking at why the individual chooses to use tobacco, discovering ways to help them quit and finally, ways to avoid relapsing and remain tobacco free for life.

There is no pre-registration for the “Get Ready to Quit” session and any military beneficiary can attend on a walk-in basis.

Our tobacco cessation program provides tobacco users with the tools to succeed in giving tobacco up forever.

The most common reasons smokers resume their habit are high stress levels and weight gain. Therefore, emphasis is placed on those two topics during classes.

A tobacco user doesn’t face this alone though, participants in the class also serve as support for each other to learn and share their experiences and successful coping skills.

Additionally, the preventive medicine team will be there to support participants along their path to being tobacco free.

This year, WAMC’s Department of Preventive Medicine is condensing this successful program from four weeks down to a morning seminar. The seminar will take place at York Theater. The condensed seminar provides instruction to participants on ways to be tobacco free. The seminar will start promptly at 8:45 a.m. and finish at 12:30 p.m.

Participants will receive an appointment later that day to see a designated provider if they are to receive tobacco cessation medications. So, come celebrate the Great American Smokeout by attending the seminar on Nov. 15 at York Theater.

To register, please call 907-9355 and take your first step to becoming tobacco free. This program is open to all military beneficiaries. Government service employees will make appointments with their own providers after the event.

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