News: Step in, smoke out
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Marines and sailors pledged their support in quitting tobacco by running the inaugural Great American Smokeout Fun Walk/Run at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Nov. 17.
At sunrise, walkers and runners navigated the 3.36 miles around Nuupia Ponds, starting and ending their trek near Pollock Field. Some participants were former smokers while others joined the event in solidarity with those who quit.
“I’m definitely looking forward to having more energy now that I’m quitting,” said Josiah Halstead, a sailor from Eugene, Ore., with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24. “I’m hoping to be healthier and feel happier, but especially to get more energy. I’ll need it to chase my son around.”
Halstead, who’s quitting tobacco along with his wife, said he was motivated to make the change to be a role model for his three-year-old son. The day of the run was Halstead’s first official smoke-free day. He anticipates having more time to spend with his family after quitting for good.
“We’ll be doing a lot of hiking and jogging,” he said. “I’ll be taking my son out to the park more now.”
Halstead and his wife are currently enrolled in tobacco cessation classes at Kaneohe Bay Branch Clinic, supported by the Semper Fit Health Promotions Department and Naval Health Clinic Hawaii. Besides learning about how to handle cravings, Halstead and others taking the weekly class are also using nicotine gum and patches to make the switch.
As the group circled the ponds, Jonathan Barkley held up signs highlighting the dangers of smoking. Barkley, who is a certified prevention specialist at the Base Substance Abuse Counseling Center, said he wanted to involve drivers and other joggers passing by.
“It’s all about the message,” Barkley said. “People weren’t coming over to our booth, so I thought I should bring it to them.”
The signs depicted physical deformities caused by smoking and showed a detailed list of all the toxic chemicals inside a single cigarette. For those who wanted to know more, Barkley directed them to an information booth near the finish line showing the illnesses smokers may face. On display were plastic models of diseased teeth and lungs that smokers could develop in long term.
For Jeff Weimer, a Marine with MALS-24 running with the group, it was these dangers of tobacco that prompted him to come out to join the event.
“I’ve never smoked and I’m completely against it,” Weimer said. “There are a lot of people in my family who smoked. I figured the more people who are out here to support [the event], the more likely people are to quit.”
Running with her child, Melissa Tejeda said she wanted to get involved to help encourage other smokers to quit. Tejeda, a spouse of a member of Combat Logistics Battalion 3, said she’s seen the unhealthy side of tobacco use.
“The quality of life for smokers as they get older goes down and you can’t enjoy your life,” she said. “You’re more likely to get emphysema or lung cancer.”
As the last of the group reached the finish line, volunteers offered free stress balls and other giveaways to all participants.
With sugar-free gum and other prizes in hand, Halstead said the run was a perfect way to continue being tobacco free. For smokers who weren’t at the event but want to quit, Halstead said to attend the base’s tobacco cessation classes and have loved ones offer support.
“If people just wait to get ready to quit, they’ll never quit,” he said. “They need to buckle down and try it for themselves.”
For online resources to help quit tobacco or to speak live with a tobacco quit coach, see http://ucanquit2.com/facts/gaso/default.aspx.