USS CARTER HALL, At sea --
Marines smoke for all sorts of reasons. They smoke because they’re stressed, because it breaks the monotony and boredom, because it’s the sociable thing to do, because they’ve been away from home for months unending, and sometimes they just need an excuse to go outside and stare at the sea – feeling the wind and smelling the salt.
All these reasons – all these excuses – are killing them, bit by bit.
Tobacco use is the single largest cause of premature preventable mortality in the United States for adults, according the U.S. Navy’s official tobacco policy. The root cause of a whole host of secondary and tertiary problems, smoking and other tobacco use causes cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, said U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Roberts, dental officer aboard the USS Carter Hall from Nantucket, Mass. According to the official policy, tobacco related costs from healthcare and loss of productivity cost the Department of Defense nearly one billion dollars a year. Now, the Navy aims to help you quit.
“We’ve changed from a very tobacco friendly military to a very tobacco unfriendly military,” said Roberts.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jimmy Gonzalez, corpsman with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of the men responsible for educating the Marines and sailors of the MEU on the dangers of smoking and offering ways to help quit. “The class is to educate those people who’d like to quit smoking to overall improve their health and try to give them a better quality of life,” said Gonzalez.
The tobacco cessation class, as taught aboard the USS Carter Hall, is four classes long, though the treatment with medication for the withdrawal symptoms may go on for longer.
“The class covers nicotine dependency, various medications to help with the withdrawal symptoms, and support available to break the habit of smoking,” said Gonzalez. “It also covers basic health issues related to smoking, what makes up a cigarette, and what tobacco actually does to your brain.”
“We usually have about a 20% success rate. That’s pretty standard,” said Roberts. “It’s harder to quit than heroin. The relapse rate for nicotine is higher than a lot of drugs that people go to rehab for.”
A great deal of internal policy in the last few years has been aimed at reducing and ending, where possible, tobacco use by service members across the military. In recent years, smoking has been entirely banned on submarines, as well as severely curtailed in other areas.
Classes are available to all Marines or sailors, per Department of the Navy policy. For information about quitting, contact your unit’s corpsman for assistance.