Air Force Doctor

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook)

Tobacco-related diseases kill more than 392,000 Americans every year. Most smokers fully understand the health issues related to smoking, but this information alone isn’t enough to overcome a real nicotine addiction. In fact, millions of individuals, including approximately 23 percent of Air Force service men and women, continue to smoke. Many of these active smokers are suffering financially, too. A study from 2012 showed that some low-income smokers spend nearly 25 percent of their income on cigarettes. With that costly spending habit, many military members are neglecting important bills, draining their savings accounts, and even looking for help from military loan lenders.

In 2012, the Air Force showed renewed interest in helping troops save their money and their health by quitting smoking. Officials enacted new regulations that will only allow tobacco use in designated tobacco areas. Smokers will need to be 50 feet from sidewalks, parking lots, or building entrances; 100 feet from playgrounds; and 200 feet from medical facilities. These guidelines came out in March and stipulated an 18-month waiting period as bases make changes to comply. All Air Force facilities must be compliant by September 2013.

These new regulations also offer special cessation support to Air Force members who want to quit. The Air Force will offer support group programs, web-based programs, tobacco quit lines, and peer-led cessation meetings. In addition to these offerings, military members will need individual strategies to ward off tobacco cravings. Service men and women may find these five tips especially helpful:

  1. Prior to quitting, make a list of when you smoke. Record what you were doing and how you were feeling at the time the craving hit. You will probably begin to see patterns. When you do quit, be mindful of the specific events or feelings that make you want a cigarette. Change up your routine as much as possible to avoid those triggers.
  1. Replace a cigarette with something else to occupy your mouth and hands. Try healthy options like baby carrots, sugar-free gum, water, or tea. Play with a straw, squeeze a stress ball, or twirl a pencil.
  1. Create multiple lists of the reasons why you’re quitting. Hang these up around your house or keep one in your wallet. Read the lists frequently to ward off cravings and reaffirm your plan to quit.
  1. Ask your family and friends for support. Vent to them about the difficulties and frustrations of quitting. Call a friend when you need to talk through a craving. Chances are, these people will be happy to offer a listening ear and words of encouragement.
  1. It’s hard work, so reward yourself for quitting! Put your cigarette money in a jar and use it for something fun at the end of the week. Go shopping or see a movie with friends. To give you even more motivation, save the money for several months or a year. You’ll probably have enough money to pay for a vacation!

Have you ever tried to quit smoking? Do you think the Air Force’s new regulations will helpful to troops who are trying to quit?