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Are you ready for the Great American Smokeout?

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Officials in both the Department of Defense and Tricare encourage military service members and their families to take part in the annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 20.

Participation in the Smokeout is an important component of the DOD-sponsored educational campaign, Quit Tobacco--Make Everyone Proud. Its mission is to assist active-duty service members in their efforts to quit tobacco, for themselves and for the people who look up to them and care about them.

"The uniform is a symbol of strength and pride, and that's what it takes to give up tobacco," said Capt. David Arday, MD, MPH, a U.S. Public Health Service officer, who is chairman of DOD's Alcohol and Tobacco Advisory Committee.  "We urge military men and women to take up the challenge of the Smokeout. Use this day as a launching point to become tobacco free and begin a healthier lifestyle.  There are resources available to help you."

Despite decades of work focused on reducing the use of tobacco by military populations, it remains firmly entrenched, especially in the youngest segment of the military population, with new smokers and smokeless tobacco users starting every day. 

In 2005, the prevalence of smoking among 18 to 25 year olds on active duty was significantly higher than among their civilian counterparts -- 42.4 percent vs. 37.6 percent of men, 29.2 percent vs. 25.8 percent of women. Nearly 23 percent of those men started smoking after joining the military. The use of smokeless or "spit tobacco" is also relatively high among military men in this age group, at roughly 25 percent.

DOD officials encourage service members to take advantage of the Great American Smokeout to kick off their quit plan. 

"Join millions of members of the uniformed services, their families and the American public who quit smoking for one day," said Rear Admiral Steven Galson, MD, MPH, acting U.S. Surgeon General.

During November, military personnel, their families and others who support them are invited to visit the campaign Web site. This interactive information and support tool is specifically aimed at enlisted active-duty personnel who want to become tobacco free. Here they can access live instant-message help from a trained cessation coach, privately and anonymously.

Users also can customize and download a quit plan; find research-based information; learn strategies for coping with triggers; play games with embedded tips and motivational messages; discuss issues on the message board; listen to podcasts; and locate local cessation programs.

Those who want to help their military friends and colleagues give up tobacco can send an e-card, become more informed about the challenges tobacco users face as they try to stop smoking and chewing, and download information to share.

The Great American Smokeout is the American Cancer Society's nationally recognized day when it advocates for people to put down their cigarettes, cigars, spit tobacco, and other tobacco products.  (Courtesy of Tricare News Service)

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