Be a Quitter

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Timothy R. Landis, commander
  • 21st Medical Squadron
About 36 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. I don’t believe that deep down, anyone likes to be dependent on tobacco or any other substance. The problem is, it is hard to quit.

Just ask anyone who has ever tried. Rarely do people succeed on their first attempt to quit smoking. In fact, statistics show that only 56 percent of former smoker’s report being able to quit with 1 or 2 tries. So why do most Americans try to quit by themselves?

It takes much more than just a desire to quit smoking to be successful. Many try quitting cold turkey. Unfortunately, the cold turkey success rate is only 48 percent. There are many innovations, products, and programs that have been designed to help smokers quit this harmful habit.

Smoking cessation is a two-pronged approach to increase your success of achieving a tobacco free life style. TRICARE covers both prescription and over-the-counter tobacco-cessation products for all TRICARE beneficiaries over the age 18 who are not Medicare-eligible. Covered tobacco-cessation products are available at no cost through military pharmacies. To pick up these products you should first have a prescription from a TRICARE provider AND be actively using one of the many tobacco-cessation programs that offer counseling support to the future non-smoker. The best way to start a Tobacco free life is to have a discussion with your primary care manager. For more information, visit , or call the TRICARE tobacco quit line 24/7/365 at 1-888-713-4597.

Support programs range from in person, face to face discussions to 24-hour text message support. For example, offers free text messaging programs that give 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips for becoming smoke free and being healthier. Also, every year, the third Thursday of November is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke-out event. This is a great time to empower yourself or encourage someone you know to quit. You can find more information at

Remember, all these methods of quitting smoking won’t guarantee success, especially for the first attempt. What is paramount is having a real desire to quit smoking; 20 percent quit for health reasons while 14 percent quit because it is too expensive. Many of these programs work better in tandem with one or more other smoking cessation programs. The combined effect can lead to a higher chance of a successful quit.

$2,000 per year in savings, lower health care costs, whiter teeth, and better lung capacity are just a few of the numerous health benefits of smoking cessation. After quitting smoking for only 12 hours your blood carbon monoxide levels return to normal. At the 12 month mark your risk of heart disease is 50 percent less than that of a smoker.

Considering that 22.7 percent of males and 17.5 percent of females in the military reported being smokers, smoking cessation is one giant step towards supporting the Air Force Surgeon General’s goal of the healthiest and highest performing population in the U.S. by 2025.