BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- The Great American Smoke Out 'Mileage to Freedom Challenge' highlighted Naval Hospital Bremerton's (NHB) commitment to tobacco cessation for staff and beneficiaries Nov. 15.
"The purpose and intent of holding this event is to have those who use tobacco to at least consider quitting for the day. From just one day can come the empowerment to hopefully quit for a lifetime. Quitting is a process that is not always easy. It requires time, patience and a desire to change. We have the tools and experience to help you succeed," said Pat Graves, NHB Tobacco Cessation Facilitator
The 'Mileage to Freedom Challenge' was a concentrated team effort made up of NHB co-workers who convinced and nominated a tobacco user to quit for 24 hours. Teams, with five maximum members, then gathered on NHB's Quarterdeck to have each member compete on a stationary bike, elliptical machine or treadmill for an overall total of 10 minutes.
Team No Chew, from NHB's Second Class Petty Officers Association took first place with 4.21 miles in the 10-minute time frame. Placing second was Team No Butts from NHB Pharmacy with a 3.24 miles and taking third place was No Inhalers from NHB Health Promotion with 2.17 miles.
Why the 10 minutes? According to Graves, just 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can reduce the desire to smoke or dip.
"It's about moving more and smoking less! Exercise can diminish nicotine withdrawal symptoms and help avoid relapse. Exercise can also reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms," Graves said.
"This was a lot of fun and a great idea. We focused on the fitness aspect and having a healthy lifestyle, which helps with not smoking," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Marci Pollard of the winning Team No Chew team.
For Graves, the Great American Smoke Out provides an annual strong reminder that anyone who uses any tobacco product can quit with a little help from Graves and other resources at NHB like the Health Promotion department.
"We want users to make a plan and commit to seeing it through. They can set themselves up to succeed with professional support and support from family and friends. They need to remember why they wanted to quit in the first place and why quitting is important. They can write down the reason or reasons why they want to quit and then visually remind themselves why they are stopping the nicotine habit."
Graves notes that tobacco usage can also compromise the mission of any service member. Quitting improves a person's night vision, mental activity; decreases the need for water; increases lung capacity; decreases injuries and accidents; increases stamina; improves fine motor coordination and increases the ability to manage stress.
Graves cites several common sense reasons why a person should quit using tobacco products.
"We all know the downside of smoking and chewing. It's been well-documented. Is there any upside? Hard to justify that," said Graves, sharing that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers.
The harmful effects of smoking impact more than just the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54 percent of children aged 3-11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.
"The life a smoker saves may be their own or that of a family member or friend," said Graves.
There's also financial incentive. A smoker can give themselves a $3,000 a year raise by quitting. The average cost of cigarettes per pack in Washington is $8.36. Multiply that amount by daily use and the annual total is $3,051.40.
"There are also intangible benefits such as setting a good example for family, friends and co-workers. A person also will live longer and healthier. Really!" said Graves, adding that a person has to stick with it. "They got to prepare for challenges. They can even practice what to say and do when someone offers them a cigarette or dip or invites them to join in the old habit. The cravings will pass but a person has to resist the urge to use tobacco. The cravings usually last about three minutes. A person can help themselves by changing their thoughts about giving in to the old habit. They can call me, call a friend, have a drink some water, or simply take a walk. I also recommend that a person can just reaffirm to themselves why they quit and the benefits they're getting."
The event also included 'how and why quit' essays from several staff members including the heartfelt testimony from Hospital Corpsman 1st class Lisa Hagman of NHB Pharmacy.
"I quit smoking almost 13 years ago at age 23. Boy was it hard! I had tried numerous times before without success. I tried hypnotism, the patch, cold turkey, you name it. When I was a smoker, I was having a lot of breathing problems and was diagnosed with asthma. I was seen in the emergency room several times for breathing treatments and couldn't go a day without using my inhaler," said Hagman.
"The biggest blow was when I was accepted into the Navy's STA-21 officer program for nursing and just days before I was to leave for school, my package was pulled from me, because of my "asthma." To this day, I tell people my smoking has costs me millions of dollars. I lost out on a free trip to college with a guaranteed job as a Navy officer and all the retirement benefits that come with it. I was finally able to quit, with the help of the patch, and my now husband, telling me he would not marry me until I quit - that was motivation for me, since I wanted to marry him!"
Hagman attests that since she quit, she had not had one single breathing treatment and uses her inhaler no more than 12 times a year. Her advice to people trying to quit is if it doesn't work try again and again and never stop quitting.
"I cannot believe the significance in my health improvement since I quit, and I only smoked for seven years. I no longer have coughs that last for weeks, constant wheezing, and shortness of breath from walking up stairs. I am so much healthier," shared Hagman.
The American Cancer Society coordinates the Great American Smokeout every year on the third Thursday of November. From the initial event in the 1970s when smoking and secondhand smoke were commonplace, the goal remains to reach smokers across the nation to use the date and make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day.
NHB follows the format and uses the annual event to educate, entertain and challenge people to stop using tobacco, and it helps people know about the many tools they can use to quit and stay quit. ACS research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support, such as what NHB offers - "in one form or another!" said Graves.
Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines; stop-smoking groups; online quit groups; counseling; nicotine replacement products; prescription medicine to lessen cravings; guide books; and encouragement and support from friends and family members. Using two or more of these measures are advocated to help anyone quit smoking.
For more news from Naval Hospital Bremerton, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhb/.