The Great American Smoke Out is one day each November that the American Cancer Society has set aside to encourage those who use tobacco to quit for 24 hours with the intent that those 24 hours are going to start a change forever.
Luke Air Force Base has recognized the GASO on the third Thursday of November for many years. However, November is also National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness Month. Three years ago Luke began to devote the entire month to smoking awareness, prevention and cessation.
“The ideal goal is to be completely tobacco free,” said Yolany Caffery, 56th Medical Group health promotions coordinator.
The mission of the 56th Fighter Wing is to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat ready Airmen. To be able to achieve that level of readiness we need to be as healthy as possible. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absences from work, and increased health care utilization and cost. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking increases the risk for coronary heart disease by two to four times, the likelihood of dying from COPD by 12 to 13 times and the development of lung cancer by 25 times. Smoking can also make it harder for women to become pregnant, affect bone health and can cause inflammation and decreased immune function.
“Currently we do track our tobacco use, Luke is sitting at 15.9% of Active Duty using tobacco products,” said Caffery. “Air Education and Training Command is at 11.9% and our Air Force is sitting at 14.6%. It would be nice if Luke could be either lower than or equal to the Air Force current tobacco rates and or if we are at least meeting or getting closer to AETC rates.”
For this year’s observation of GASO, Caffery wanted to get Luke’s youth involved. The Youth Center educated the kids on why using tobacco products is bad. The children created three different posters with a message for tobacco users on why it’s important for them to stop using.
The 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron is the highest tobacco using squadron on base and has volunteered to have the posters displayed which will help encourage Airmen to quit using tobacco products. In conjunction with the posters, Caffery will be visiting the dining facility, commissary and 56th MDG with a small device used to measure the levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide within ones lungs.
“When you take the test and actually see how much nicotine you have in your lungs it’s very effective,” said Caffery. “We want everyone who uses tobacco in the community to quit.”
For active duty members there are a few ways of getting assistance. They can schedule an appointment to visit their primary care provider or with the Behavioral Health Optimization Program by calling 623-856-2273. Another option is to contact Caffery at 623-856-7531 to discuss other resources available help stop tobacco use.
For more information about the Great American Smokeout, visit https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html.