News: Sometimes quitters win
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Quitter is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as one who gives up too easily.
Sometimes quitting isn’t as easy as it seems. Sometimes quitting isn’t always a negative thing.
Staff Sgt. Latasha Wade, HHC 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, knows how difficult it can be to quit. Quit smoking, that is.
“I smoked for 16 years,” Wade said. “I quit smoking when I met my husband. At that time he had been cigarette free for two years and he didn't want to relapse being around a smoker. So I quit smoking five months after we started dating.”
Wade quit gradually over the next five months.
“I was hiding it from my husband while we were dating and eventually I got tired of hiding it and I quit,” Wade said. “The advice I would give someone who wants to quit smoking would be to find something to motivate them to quit. Be it for health reasons, saving money or their significant other.”
Among current U.S. adult smokers, 70 percent report that they want to quit completely, and millions have attempted to quit smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I consistently smoked for ten years," Staff Sgt. Kevin Hoffman, Operations non-commissioned officer, 98th Maintenance Company said. “I thought, this isn't helping me any and I had a new son. It was also getting expensive anyways, so I quit. It took about six months."
His first attempt to stop smoking cold turkey failed, so he took another approach and quit gradually.
“I started smoking again for a couple weeks and I was like, ‘Naw, this is just wrong.’ So then I just started slowly stopping and then one day I just threw the pack of cigarettes I had left away and I refused to smoke from then on."
Hoffman said the reasons to quit go beyond your own health.
“You need to quit for the people that you love if not for yourself," he said.
Here on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, there are several soldiers, airmen, civilians and family members who would like to quit using tobacco products as well. The opportunity to quit is locally available.
A great way to start is to attend a tobacco cessation class.
“If they are ready to quit smoking today, what we normally do is invite them to attend the class,” said Janice Fulton, a health educator, at the JBER Health and Wellness Center, or HAWC. “The research over time has shown that on doing tobacco cessation in a group setting with that kind of support just increases your chances for success. If you’re determined to absolutely, positively quit today, we will definitely sit down and talk with you. If you want to do medications, then we’ll refer you to one of the providers involved with the tobacco cessation program who are able to prescribe the tobacco cessation medications.”
“Sometimes the folks that attend the class bring a family member like a spouse who’s going to be their support system in their cessation efforts, so they’re perfectly welcome to come to the class also and hear the information,” Fulton said.
There needs to be an environment of support for people trying to quit, according to Rebecca Kleinschmidt, a health educator, who also works at the HAWC.
“If the environment they’re in doesn’t support those changes, it’s really difficult for people to stay tobacco free. There are a lot of different stages in the progress of change. Action is one of those, but if people are in the preparation stage and their not quite ready to change, but they’re thinking about it, they’re very welcome here. They don’t have to be actively quitting smoking in order to participate in our class. We get people who really need to build their confidence before they jump into trying to reduce or quit. This is a good place to learn some skills on how to build their confidence, how to set reasonable goals and learn tricks that will make them feel more powerful in this fight against tobacco."
It’s normal for many tobacco users to try quitting several times before succeeding, according to Fulton.
“That’s typical,” Fulton said. “Most people will tell you they’ve tried 8-11 times before they finally quit and that’s OK. They can come back as often as they need to. That’s OK.
Kleinschmidt feels there is a decrease in smoking during the winter months.
“I think people, around the holidays and New Year’s, reflect upon changes that they want in their lives," Kleinschmidt said. “In addition, because of policy changes and environmental changes, it’s more common that people have to smoke outside and in the cold winter months here, that’s sort of a barrier to people. So when they have to smoke outside when it’s so cold, it’s sort of a reminder too: 'Do I really want to be doing this? Is this really worth it?’”
Smokeless tobacco is also addressed at the three day class.
“Since I’ve been involved in the smoking cessation program I’ve seen an increase in smokeless tobacco use,” Fulton said. “There are a lot of folks who use both, smoke and use smokeless tobacco, and have a tendency to use smokeless tobacco when the weather prohibits them from going outside. We’ve seen those rates increasing over time.”
The first day of Tobacco Cessation covers methods of quitting, including pharmacotherapy. A medical staff member spends time with each participant talking about what medication they want to use, if any, and making sure there are no contraindications present.
The second day covers triggers of use, normal withdrawal symptoms, both physical and psychological, and addresses any issues the participants have experienced since the first class. This day also includes nutrition counseling. The HAWC dieticians address weight gain issues after tobacco.
Day three addresses stress management and techniques for dealing with daily stressors without resorting to tobacco use and relapse prevention.
The HAWC offers a wide variety of health-related training.
“The training is not restricted to tobacco or nutrition,” Fulton said. “We can do other things like cold weather injury prevention, infectious disease, STDs or other health related training.
The HAWC can take that training to any unit, Army or Air Force, on JBER, according to Fulton.
“Our primary objective is to provide primary prevention, which is to help people with small lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of illness or disease,” Kleinschmidt said. “We also provide secondary prevention, which is for people who weren’t diagnosed with an illness or a disease, but their symptoms can be managed with lifestyle changes. For example, the diabetic patient can be given nutritional advice and be given help on becoming more active and they can really control their insulin levels and control their symptoms ultimately with lifestyle changes.
Tobacco cessation is just one area of emphasis for the HAWC. The center can build preventive health training programs for units on nutrition, fitness, cholesterol reduction, STD awareness and other issues upon request.
“We mainly go by what people want and what people need, but the top two causes of unintentional or preventable death are tobacco use and overweight due to poor nutrition and inactivity,” Kleinschmidt said. “Those are the two major things we focus on. So many people needlessly die because of those two issues that are lifestyle based.”
Training NCOs, first sergeants, company commanders are welcome to contact the HAWC at (907) 552-2361 to request health-related training for their units.
Tobacco cessation classes
JBER Richardson - 12:00 p.m. on the first three Tuesdays of each month at Building 600 Room A-37 until November when the class will move to the Education Center.
JBER Elmendorf - 8 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on the first three Thursdays of the month at the JBER Health and Welfare Center.
The classes are available to anyone in the JBER community with access to the base.