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Tobacco cessation program for Marines

31 Jan 2014 | Lance Cpl. Charles J. Santamaria

Tobacco products are used on a daily basis by people of all walks of life. Whether it’s lining gums with chewing tobacco or lighting a cigarette and taking a puff, tobacco use and its effects are important to understand.

Martha Hunt, health promotions coordinator, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, has been running the Tobacco Awareness Prevention and Cessation Program on base for 13 and a half years. Hunt elaborates on her experience with the obstacles some service members encounter when trying to quit.

“They have to be ready to make the change mentally,” Hunt said. “All of the medications that we offer can help you get away from tobacco products but they can’t help you become tobacco-free. People need to find something that motivates them to quit, whether that be a baby on the way, improving physical fitness scores, or even an upcoming surgery.”

Some Marines set goals for themselves and see the changes in their performance.

“I’ve been setting limits for myself,” said Lance Cpl. Hannah Carlson, combat videographer, Combat Camera, Headquarters Battalion. “I buy less cigarettes every week and I notice the difference in my run time and I feel like I don’t lose my breath as much as before.”

For many, tobacco products are a way to alleviate stress or boredom. According to Hunt, the effect nicotine actually has on the body is the opposite.

“Many people use tobacco products for relaxation and stress relief, but what they don’t know is that while the nicotine eases tension from stress, it also releases adrenaline which effectively counter-acts the calm feeling,” Hunt said. “The person has to change the way they deal with stress.”

The Tobacco Awareness Prevention and Cessation Program provides different forms of counseling for service members who are interested in becoming tobacco free.

“The program offers displays in the naval hospital that inform visitors about the effects of tobacco use,” Hunt said. “I also go to units to give presentations on how use of tobacco products can affect physical fitness and combat readiness.”

One-on-one counseling is now provided for anyone interested in taking part in the program and seeking information, guidance, or methods to quit. The Naval Hospital only offers products that are Food and Drug Administration approved such as nicotine gum and patches. Electronic products however are not part of the tobacco cessation program.

“We do not recommend electronic cigarettes or an electronic product because they are not FDA approved and have been known to be hazardous.”

Finding goals and motivations to begin the process of quitting is an important step in the process of tobacco cessation.

“I started smoking cigarettes about a year ago for social reasons,” Carlson said. “But I don’t want to let a habit limit my performance or affect my health.”

The success rate of the Tobacco Awareness Prevention and Cessation Program is approximately 40 percent with those that follow up. One of the main goals of the program is to become more well-known and spread awareness, according to Hunt.

“When I see those that I have been able to follow up with successfully quit tobacco, it reinforces the sense that I’m doing something good,” Hunt said. “In the end, that individual still has to want to quit tobacco. Knowing that I gave them the knowledge they needed makes me feel like I helped them put the pieces together to overcome the obstacle.”

For more information on the Tobacco Awareness Prevention and Cessation Program or how to schedule an appointment, contact Martha Hunt at 830-2814.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms