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Release No: 844-03
November 12, 2003

DoD Supports Great American Smokeout

     There's an old adage that says, “A quitter never wins!”  Dr. David Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy, says, “For smokers and smokeless tobacco users, the real winners are those who make the often difficult and life-altering commitment to quit.”  As a critical quality of life issue, the Department of Defense encourages all who smoke or use smokeless tobacco products to take the first step to a healthier life by participating in the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20, 2003.

     In the United States, smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and disease.  An estimated 425,000 people die every year from smoking- and tobacco-related illnesses.  These illnesses cost more than $50 billion annually to treat.  Time lost from work or disability adds an additional $47 billon in indirect costs for the nation.  For active duty members, smoking and tobacco use hurts military readiness.  Eliminating cigarettes and other harmful tobacco products keeps people at their personal best and fit to fight.

     The Great American Smokeout is a nationally recognized event to raise personal awareness regarding the hazards of smoking and tobacco use.  It offers participants support and educational tools to live a healthier and tobacco-free life by successfully kicking the life-altering habit.  Since 1964, reviews by the U.S. Surgeon General have highlighted numerous research findings proving that smoking is highly connected to cancer of the mouth, voice box (larynx), bladder, kidney, pancreas, lungs as well as other heart and respiratory illnesses.  Unfortunately, many people, especially teenagers, believe smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking.  Smokeless tobacco has been clearly linked to cancer of the mouth and pharynx, leukoplakia (white sores in the mouth that can lead to cancer), gum recession (peeling back of gums), bone loss around the teeth, abrasion of teeth and bad breath.

     Smoking is not only harmful for the people who smoke, but is harmful to non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke exhaled from a smoker or from a burning cigarette.  For women and children there are unique risks.  A pregnant woman who smokes or is exposed to second-hand smoke is more likely to have a miscarriage or a low birth-weight baby.  Second-hand smoke also has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  Babies and children raised in homes where smoking occurs are likely to have more ear infections, colds and suffer from bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

     The good news is it's never too late to quit.  Within 24-hours of quitting, your body begins a series of healthful changes.  Regardless of age, people who quit can live longer and healthier lives.  But quitting isn’t easy.  The absence of nicotine in the body may temporarily cause depression, anger, irritability or other withdrawal symptoms.  The decision to quit requires determination and a life-long commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

     The Great American Smokeout is a great time to quit -- if even for just one day.  According to Tornberg, “The Military Health System encourages and supports everyone to make a personal commitment to a healthier and tobacco-free life.”  Tobacco cessation and other behavioral support programs are available at many military treatment facilities and in local communities.  If military healthcare beneficiaries use tobacco, they can talk to their military or civilian primary care provider to learn more about its harmful effects, and the cessation and treatment programs available to help them kick tobacco to improve their health and those around them.  For all who quit, the rewards will bring a lifetime of better health.

     Additional smoking cessation information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco.  Information on the Great American Smokeout and other tobacco cessation and treatment programs can be found on the American Cancer Society Web site at: http://www.cancer.org/.

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