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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The best time to quit smoking is as soon as possible.

But if you are having trouble picking a date to quit, there is no better day to try than Nov. 15, the date of the 31st annual Great American Smokeout.

About 23 percent of active-duty personnel at Yokota use tobacco products, said Maj. PeggyAnn Cain, the flight commander for Health Promotion at Yokota, adding that about one in four airmen use tobacco Air Force-wide.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “people who quit smoking, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke, and quitting smoking substantially decreases the risk of lung, laryngeal, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder and cervical cancers.”

The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout campaign urges smokers to quit smoking for one full day.

“Seventy percent of smokers want to quit,” said Cain, who said that the goal of the Smokeout is to build a smoker’s confidence in his or her ability to quit, even if only for a short time. If a smoker can go a day without a cigarette, she said, maybe it will encourage that person to try quitting for a few days or maybe even a few weeks.

Cain said smokers have a physical addiction to nicotine as well as certain stimuli that trigger their behavior. Recognizing those triggers — which can include stress, being in a social setting or desire to smoke after a meal — is one of the first steps toward quitting, she said.

This year, Yokota’s Health and Wellness Center sent out information to base units about the Smokeout and what they can do to help their personnel kick the habit. Other Air Force bases, as well as military installations worldwide, are conducting similar programs, she said.

One simple and fun way that nonsmokers can help out, Cain said, is to adopt a smoker by filling out “Smoker Adoption Papers.” The foster nonsmoker pledges to provide motivation, support and even bribes to the adoptee during the 24 hours of the Smokeout as well as future encouragement to remain smoke- free.

Tips for quittingHere are some tips to help smokers quit, provided by the Yokota Health and Wellness Center.

¶ Prepare for life as a nonsmoker by getting rid of all cigarette-related material including lighters, ashtrays, cigarettes and butts.¶ 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 sugarless candy, fruit or vegetables.¶ 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.

— From staff reports

Help is available

Many bases offer a variety of assistance to help smokers quit including classes, counseling and group therapy; and medications such as nicotine gum, patches or Zyban, a prescription medication used to treat nicotine addiction. These products generally are free, as long as participants have access to base medical facilities.

Japan:¶ Yokota Air Base: 225- 8322.¶ Misawa Air Base: 226- 6550 or 226-6653.¶ Camp Zama: 263-5050.¶ Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni: 253-3266.¶ Yokosuka Naval Base: 243-9776 or 243-9627.¶ Sasebo Naval Base: 252- 2074.¶ Naval Air Facility Atsugi: 264-4685.

Okinawa:¶ U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa: 645-2620 or 643-7906.¶ Kadena Air Base: 634- 8197.

For more information on how to quit, check out these Web sites:¶ www.smokefree.gov¶ The Great American Smokeout: www.cancer.org/greatamericans¶ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tobacco Information Site: www.cdc.gov/tobacco/index.htm

From staff reports

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