Commentary

September 6, 2013

Encouragement and being ready, key to quitting tobacco use

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Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson
452 AMW public affairs

Staff Sgt. Joe Davidson, 452nd Air Mobility Wing public affairs, prepares to serve during a tennis warm-up. Davidson started playing tennis in 1989, after he quit smoking, as a healthy alternative. He now plays regularly and hasn’t smoked in more than 25 years.

With the Healthy Base Initiative kicking off at March this weekend, members will be encouraged to make life choices regarding nutrition and fitness for themselves and members of their families. Federal civilian employees will also be encouraged to consider these choices. Besides nutrition and fitness, the other target for the HBI is to promote smoking cessation.

As a former smoker, I thought it would be fitting to share with you how I was able to give up this bad habit. For more than 20 years, I smoked about a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Now, having been a non-smoker for the last 25 years, I want to encourage you to join me.

Giving up tobacco usage is possible without all of the therapies, gadgets, pills, gums, pokes and prods of cessation treatments. I know it’s possible because I didn’t use any of these. I was just truly ready to quit.

I don’t recall having to “psyche” myself up or even doubting that I could quit. Like a lot of former smokers, I quit several times, sometimes for months, but returned to lighting up after a meal, having a cigarette with a mixed drink, or just having one because I could.

Some former smokers say they quit smoking because they saw a member of their family or a friend die of cancer and they didn’t want to go through all of the medical treatments that are a residual effect of a life-long tobacco use.

My father passed away from brain cancer 32 years ago. That tragic event didn’t stop me from smoking. My sister, also a former smoker, had a portion of her large intestine removed because of cancer. That didn’t stop me from smoking either. Like I said, when I quit, I was ready to quit.

For several years the American Cancer Society has promoted the Great American Smoke out. This happens on the third Thursday in November each year, and is used to encourage smokers and users of other types of tobacco to refrain from their use for one day.

It took a little research, but I determined that I gave up cigarettes for good on the night of November 15, 1989, the day before the smoke out event. I had done what smoking cessation experts suggested; I connected my quitting cigarettes to a related event.

The company where I worked held an adopt-a-smoker event in support of the smoke out. When I went to work the next day a friend “adopted” me and encouraged me by calling me to show support and get me through those rough moments when I really craved tobacco. My wife called me as well throughout the day to show her support.

That quitting for one day turned into weeks, then months, then years. I haven’t touched a cigarette since.

Considering that I quit because I made the decision to do so, I’m not convinced that these modern cures help you stop smoking if you’re not really ready to quit. I have read that some experts say that how, when or even if you quit depends on your genetic makeup.

According to the American Cancer Society website, tobacco use today remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and early death in the U.S. Smoking kills more than 440,000 people per year with approximately 49,000 of those deaths being attributed to second-hand smoke.

If you’re truly ready to quit smoking, ask for encouragement from your family and friends, and make a plan for quitting that coincides with an event like the Great American Smoke out. I did it and it worked.




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