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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — It’s 4:30 p.m., and Pvt. Samuel Napier has chewed seven of his allotted nine pieces of Nicorette gum.

He’s determined to quit his pack-a-day smoking habit that started about 18 months ago. Determined, but far from chipper.

"If I sit down and let my head fall back, I’d fall asleep in seconds, said Napier, a combat medic from Miami. "But if I stand up, I can’t stand still. I get jittery. It’s like this tic — it’s freaking killing me."

Napier and others quit their habit Thursday as part of the Great American Smokeout, an annual campaign sponsored by the American Cancer Society and supported by military bases throughout the Pacific.

"The best way to go is cold turkey. … Cutting down smoking makes it nearly impossible to quit," Napier said.

Napier and other soldiers had sponsors at base health clinics throughout South Korea to check in on them, share snacks and generally provide encouragement.

"Before, I wasn’t really motivated. But this time I actually want to quit," said Spc. Eric Wines of Christiansburg, Va.

Wines, who started seven years ago and smokes up to 1½ packs a day, tried to quit before but said he feels better about his chances of quitting this time.

"I’m trying to stay around friends who know I’m trying to quit. They’ve been very supportive," he said.

Capt. Judy Elsbury, chief nurse for the Yongsan outlying health clinic command, estimated that at least 5 percent to 10 percent of the 8,000 patients at her clinics smoke or use smokeless tobacco.

Although tobacco use has declined as a whole in the United States over the years, many servicemembers in Iraq or Afghanistan use tobacco because of stress, or simply to kill time.

"Troops come back dipping and with habits they picked up out there," Elsbury said.

USFK health clinics offer classes to help those struggling to kick the habit. Most servicemembers who take the tobacco cessation classes are referred by their health care providers.

A nurse interviews potential candidates for 30 minutes to make sure they won’t have adverse reactions to a nicotine patch. Candidates also have their medical history reviewed.

Servicemembers then take three one-hour classes during lunch to learn to tailor their diet, develop the right attitude and build the support structure necessary to quit using tobacco.

Elsbury says she sees servicemembers of different ages in the classes, although many are in their 20s.

Classes at Yongsan are beginning shortly. Those interested can call Elsbury at 725-5128.

Information on classes or quitting tobacco is available at most military health clinics.

Tips to quit smoking■ Prepare for life as a nonsmoker by getting rid of all cigarette-related material, including lighters, ashtrays and cigarettes.

■ Play sports with friends or go to the gym for a workout.

■ Drink lots of water — studies have shown that tobacco tastes worse after a glass or two.

■ Change your routine to avoid what triggers you to smoke. For example, if you smoke while having a cup of coffee, switch to tea, water or juice.

■ Chew sugar-free gum or eat fruit, vegetables or sugarless candy.

■ Persuade a friend or co-worker to quit with you.

■ Leave the table after dinner to avoid lingering for a cigarette.

■ Keep your hands busy, get a new hobby or fix things around the house.

■ If you get a craving, wait 10 minutes. If the urge is still there wait another 10 minutes — the feeling will pass.

■ Visualize yourself as a nonsmoker.

■ Focus on today and get through one day tobacco-free.

■ Make a plan for the extra money you will have from not buying cigarettes.

■ Rent a John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart movie — their early deaths were caused by tobacco use.

■ Anticipate challenges and plan to prevent slip-ups.

■ Participate in a tobacco-cessation program at your Health and Wellness Center.

Source: Yokota Health and Wellness Center

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