By 6th Medical Group Health Promotions
/ Published December 14, 2020
Air Force policy promotes tobacco-free environments. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Steve Thompson)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. annually, including more than 41,000 deaths from second-hand smoke.
Smoking is also the leading cause of preventable deaths and affects nearly every organ in the body. Tobacco use is also very expensive. In 2014, the Department of Defense spent almost $1.8 billion in associated medical and non-medical costs.
The surgeons generals of all military service branches believe tobacco use threatens military readiness. They consider tobacco use and any form of nicotine whether it’s smoked, smokeless, or electronic.
In a joint press release they stated that, “Use of tobacco products among service members is pervasive, harmful, and an urgent public health problem.” Tobacco use has long been a “norm” in the military. Approximately one-third of tobacco users started after they joined, often as a means of building camaraderie, peer influence and to manage stress, especially when deployed.
Smoking and vaping can make it harder to fight infections, including COVID-19. Tobacco use increases levels of an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which helps the COVID-19 virus attach to cells in the lungs.
Smoking and vaping damage cilia, which are hair-like projections in the bronchus of the lungs that trap and move microbes and debris out of airways. Smoking and vaping also damage neutrophils and macrophages, types of white blood cells, which are important for fighting infections.
Our surgeons general encourages service members to live tobacco-free and if you are a tobacco user, to reach out for help to quit.
Visit https://tricare.mil/tobaccocessation for more information. You can also call the 6th Medical Group Health Promotions office at (813) 828-4739 to learn about tobacco cessation services available locally.