The Great American Smokeout Published Oct. 31, 2016 By Jim Martin, Health Promotion Program Coordinator 82nd AMDS Public Health Flight SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. The Air Force is not exempt from this statistic. The overall smoking rate in the Air Force is almost identical to that of our civilian counterparts at 17 percent. The Department of Defense spends more than $1.6 billion each year on tobacco-related medical care. Even more, service members who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of basic training, encounter more injuries, and be overall less combat-ready than non-smokers. This year has been a great year for the improved health of our base and our Air Force. On July 29, the 82nd Medical Group (82MDG) became a tobacco-free facility. This change, while keeping in line with current directives and medical standards, also shows that the medical group is dedicated to the health and well-being of all beneficiaries and staff members. Tech. Sgt. George Brooks, a logistics technician at the medical group, smoked cigarettes for more than 15 years. He decided this year would be the last year he smoked. On March 25th, he put down his cigarettes and lighter for the very last time. Now, eight months later, he is still smoke-free and excited to share his story. Brooks decided to quit smoking for his own health, the health of his family, and because he knew he would save a lot of money. When asked about becoming a non-smoker, he said, "I was really anxious about quitting. I had been smoking for so long, I didn't know how to be a non-smoker." After completing a four-week tobacco cessation course, Brooks was ready to be a non-smoker. "It was hard, but I was determined and I did it. I still get urges sometimes but I know I will never smoke again." In the 1970s, initiatives across the country were taking place to advertise the dangers of cigarette smoking and to encourage smokers to quit - even for just one day. This soon evolved into an annual campaign by the American Cancer Society to improve the health of all Americans and became known as the Great American Smokeout. This year, the Great American Smokeout will be Thursday, November 17. This is a day to start a new, healthier life. A day to make a life-changing decision. A day to kick the habit - even if just for one day. Are you ready to put down that cigarette and lighter for the very last time? If you would like help quitting smoking (or dipping), please contact 82 AMDS Health Promotion Element at 676-5831. You can quit, we can help!