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Quit tobacco and rethink the drink

Great American Smokeout

Great American Smokeout

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Why wait until New Year's to make a resolution? November is Air Force Quit Tobacco Month, which coincides with the Great American Smokeout on November 18. The following month of December is Responsible Alcohol Use Awareness Month. The reasons for cutting down on both are numerous- not to mention alcohol and nicotine contribute more damage to a consumer's life and the lives around them than any other drugs combined.

The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths (nearly one of every five deaths) each year in the United States. These effects are associated with decreased physical fitness, increased alcohol use and an increased likelihood of attrition from military service. Tobacco decreases lung capacity, night vision, mental acuity, wound healing, stamina, and the ability to deal with stress - important for survival on deployment and for coping with daily stressors.

In a recent British study, alcohol was found to cause more damage than any other drug. One of the contributing factors to this is alcohol is one of the few drugs that is socially acceptable to use in excess. From football games to college/dorm parties, alcohol overuse contributes to social problems like sexual and physical assault, vandalism, noise ordinance violations and alienation from friends and family members. Individuals with alcohol use disorders can suffer from isolation, depression, financial, occupational and legal problems besides numerous physical complications.

The effects of quitting smoking and abstaining or moderating alcohol use can be noticed quickly. Within 20 minutes after quitting smoking, blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. Within 12 hours, blood oxygen and carbon monoxide levels have returned to normal. After 48 hours, nerve endings begin to regenerate, and sense of smell and taste begin to return to normal. After one year, coronary heart disease risk has dropped to less than half that of a current smoker. Within 15 years, risk of coronary heart disease is equal to that of a nonsmoker. Quit by age 35, and avoid 90 percent of the risks of tobacco use. Even smokers who quit before age 50 significantly reduce their risk of dying from a tobacco-related disease.

By abstaining or moderating alcohol use, people often find they feel better physically, have more energy, sleep better and are more involved in things that matter to them most. A recommendation for moderate alcohol use is known as "0-0-1-3:" 0 drinks if you are under legal consumption age, 0 drinks if you are driving, no more than 1 drink per hour, no more than 3 drinks per night. Indicators that alcohol is becoming a problem in your life include: someone nagging you about your excessive drinking, feeling guilty about your drinking, using alcohol as you would use medication, and having tried to cut down with little or no success.

If you are interested in quitting tobacco use, talk to your primary care manager or contact the Health and Wellness Center for information at 226-2710 (Lakenheath) or 238-7161 (Mildenhall). If you would like help cutting down on your alcohol use, contact the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Clinic for more information at 226-8602.