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NEWS | Nov. 18, 2021

Great American Smokeout: Help is on your Side

By Troy Miller, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Mark Twain, an American writer, once said “Giving up smoking is easy… I've done it hundreds of times.” For those who smoke breaking this habit can be difficult. The challenge is not going back to the habit after a day, a week, a month, or years after quitting.

Nov. 18 marks the 44th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout Day, an intervention event on the third Thursday of November hosted by the American Cancer Society. It is a day to challenge people to give up smoking or come up with a plan to stop smoking.

“We understand that something like this [stop smoking permanently] is not an easy task,” said Tobacco Cessation Program Manager for Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Portsmouth and Community Healthy Program Specialist Joe Burmeister. “This is why multiple agencies have programs and information to help one to quit smoking once and for all.”

Sailors, Sailor’s dependents and civilians who are enrolled in TRICARE can contact their Primary Care Manager (PCM) to help them in the process.  They can also contact the Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Department at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) or any of the outlying Branch Health Clinics for help in quitting tobacco as well.   Civilians who are not enrolled in TRICARE must utilize their healthcare system/insurance and their doctor to help them in their quitting process. 

There are several ways an individual can become tobacco-free:

Cold Turkey – staying focused on your reason for quitting.  Drink lots of water, stay busy, and avoid other tobacco users and the usual places and circumstances you use tobacco.

Tapering – cut down your tobacco until your quit day.  If you smoke 30 cigarettes a day, cut back to 25, then 20, then 15 and so on until you can get down to zero.  If you dip, cut down from one can a day to half a can a day. 

Postponing – Choose not to start your tobacco use until later in the day.  If you usually start using as soon as you wake up in the morning, postpone to start a few hours later and then when you get used to that time, postpone to even a later time.

Medications – For those who need assistance with quitting, NMCP can provide education and prescription, to include patches, gum and mediation.

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Estimates show smoking increases the risk for coronary heart disease by two to four times, for stroke by two to four times, of men developing lung cancer by 25 times, of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times.  Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.

“Quitting tobacco use improves health status and enhances quality of life,” said Burmeister.  “It reduces the risk of premature death and can add as much as ten years to life expectancy.  It also reduces the risk for many adverse health effects, including poor reproductive health outcomes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.”

While quitting earlier in life yields greater health benefits, quitting tobacco is beneficial to health at any age.  Even people who have used tobacco for many years or have used tobacco heavily will benefit from quitting.  Quitting tobacco is the single best way to protect family members, coworkers, friends, and others from the health risks associated with breathing secondhand smoke.

Henry Ford, the found of Ford Motor Company, once said, "Every time you try to quit smoking you are actually getting closer to staying smoke-free."

For more information to quit tobacco use, go to, (TRICARE members only).