Sometimes it is okay to quit

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Many would agree quitting is a negative thing. Quit school and have no formal education. Quit a job and have no income. Quit the team and lose the camaraderie. But quitting some things can have a positive effect on personal, social and physical well-being. 

Like smoking. 

According to the Health and Wellness Center's data collected through various surveys, Spangdahlem has the highest percentage of tobacco users in U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The staff at the HAWC would like that to change. 

"Some of the possible reasons for the high percentage of tobacco users here are high deployment rates and job stress," said Staff Sgt. Cordney Morehead, HAWC diet technician. "The deployment rates can actually cause job stress at the home station because it takes Airmen away from the mission here, putting more strain on the people left behind." 

The HAWC implemented the Fresh Start program to give tobacco users just that - a fresh start. 

The program involves four in-person classes, beginning at the start of each month, that allow person-to-person feedback on the quitting process. Participants in the program meet 3 p.m. Tuesdays, each time receiving various information geared toward quitting smoking. 

The first day is for "breaking the ice." People share their name and where they work, how long they've been smoking, why they started and why they want to quit. On day two, a pharmacist meets with the group to discuss quitting with the assistance of medication - Zyban or nicotine replacement therapy like the nicotine patch - though medication is not required. Day three, a mental health technician discusses techniques for dealing with stress. On the final day, participants are able to discuss the effects of quitting - like possible weight gain. 

"Sometimes when people quit, they gain weight. They resort to something else to rectify not smoking," Sergeant Morehead said. "It's important to make sure they know this is something they should be aware of." 

While the class is available to all Sabers and the maximum class size is 15, there are usually only about five to six people in each monthly class. 

"This is both good and bad. It's good that it's more personalized - sometimes people are more likely to speak up and express the issues they are having," said Capt. Nathan Maertens, health promotions flight commander. "Then again, it's not that we prefer to have fewer people sign up because we'd like to help everyone." 

There are other avenues that allow more people to take advantage of available programs. While taking the class provides an abundance of information for those wishing to quit using tobacco, not everyone is able to take time out of their work schedules to attend. 

"For the people who aren't able to get away from their day-to-day duties, we also have the 'Quit Line' (or American Lung Association Call Center). Servicemembers can call the line to talk to a counselor, come into the HAWC to get their blood pressure measured and can get the medication," Sergeant Morehead explained. 

"Then, they contact the counselor once a week. It's like the buddy system," he said. 

Another effort the HAWC is putting forth to assist with the reduction in tobacco usage is encouraging servicemembers to become tobacco facilitators. Those who are interested in becoming a facilitator are trained at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and, once certified, can provide services similar to those found at the HAWC to their own units. 

"There are only two facilitators here at the HAWC, yet we're trying to reach all of Spangdahlem and the (globally separated units). Unit facilitators help us reach more people," Sergeant Morehead said. 

"It may be beneficial because the unit facilitator is someone the smoker consistently works with and knows," Captain Maertens added. 

The next class begins Sept. 1. Classes are held at the HAWC conference room. 

For more information, or to sign up for Fresh Start or the tobacco facilitator class, call the HAWC at 452-7385. For assistance with tobacco cessation, call the Quit Line at -877-695-QUIT. If dialing from DSN, first dial 809-463-3376, wait for another dial tone and dial the Quit Line.