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Tobacco Cessation Program helps kick the habit

  • Published
  • By Jason Heavner
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
With the holidays approaching, stress usually follows.  When some people get stressed out, tobacco can be a means for escape.  The tobacco cessation program, located at the base clinic, is in place to help Airmen or family members kick the habit. 

Kirk Clark, 341st Medical Group health promotion coordinator, says his version of tobacco cessation is different from the typical treatment in other cessation programs.  

“We had to adapt to our own version of the program because we would get a significant attrition rate due to Airmen signing up and not finishing the program because their mission priorities wouldn’t allow them to finish the program,” said Clark. 

According to Clark, their version is made up of three tiers.  The first is having access to quitting aids, whether it’s nicotine gum, a patch or medication.  The second tier involves meeting with a behavioral health coordinator to figure out one’s motivation to quit.  The third portion of the program identifies a realistic coping technique to rely on when the cravings increase. 

“With this section of the program, we go over with the individual on what caused them to light up or chew tobacco.  Whether it’s using tobacco in your car or when you wake up in the morning, we like to figure out what situation led them to do so and what can be done to confront that situation,” explained Clark. 

During the behavior planning phase, which is during the second-tier of the program, participants are in a classroom setting with a psychiatrist as they set a goal date on when they plan on quitting tobacco products permanently.  Participants are also encouraged to talk about their overall motivation of quitting tobacco. 

“I always discuss with my patients that if you have ashtrays all over your house, in your car or at work, how are you going to get tobacco out of your life?” said Dr. Timothy Underwood, 341st Medical Group behavior health coordinator.  “You need a functional plan to make that happen and we start by recognizing the situations where you normally would use tobacco.  Once that’s established, we then try to come up with an alternative plan to prevent the craving to occur.” 

One crucial factor to the treatment is recognizing the moments of downtime where cravings usually would arise, which could potentially be a triggering mechanism that the patient wouldn’t recognize on their own. 

“During this portion of the program, we try to find any flaws within the patients’ pathway to quitting,” said Underwood.  “For example, we discuss every little routine throughout the patient’s day.  For example, the wife comes home and as the dad spends time with the kids the wife usually has 20 minutes of downtime where she would normally light up a cigarette.  It’s then we discuss those alternate plans that you normally wouldn’t do before, whether it’s taking the dog for a walk or just going out for fresh air.” 

Even though the program is there and available for anyone who wants to quit, the one thing Clark would like to remind people is the program is not an avenue to just acquire the quit aids. 

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘if you can just give me the medication, I can quit.’  My answer to that is if you can quit, just quit.  Using a drug or a patch shouldn’t be your main source for quitting, you must develop the willpower in your brain to quit as well.  The devices are there to help you as part of the process to help one quit, not the end-call, cure-all method,” said Clark. 

With the mission that has to be supported on base, Clark mentions that they are willing to work around different schedules. 

“If that happens, we’ll work around their schedule if we need to,” said Clark.  “It’s up to the individual and how committed they are to the program and their willingness to quit.” 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases are linked with cigarette smoking.  Malmstrom’s tobacco cessation program is available to Airmen and family members that do not want to be a part of that statistic.