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Troops Urged to Quit Smokeless Tobacco

From a Tricare News Release

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Feb. 10, 2011 – When the Defense Department weighs in on kissing and spitting, it’s with good reason -- two good reasons, in fact: love and health.

Using smokeless tobacco can pose a stinky, unsavory obstacle to sharing a kiss with a loved one, parent, child or sweetheart. It also may cause a slew of serious health problems. That’s why TRICARE wants military personnel to participate in the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 24, and kiss the spit goodbye for a day.

About 19 percent of 18- to 24-year-old men in the armed forces use smokeless tobacco -- that’s more than double the national rate. The DOD Quit Tobacco -- Make Everyone Proud campaign at www.ucanquit2.org is focusing on helping those who spit and chew tobacco to develop a personalized cessation plan.

“Many of our servicemen started using smokeless tobacco at a young age due to peer pressure and became addicted before realizing the negative effects it could have on their personal relationships and health,” said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Aileen Buckler, a U.S. Public Health Service officer and chairman of the DOD Alcohol and Tobacco Advisory Committee.

Throughout the month of February the DOD website will host a special Great American Spit Out page, www.ucanquit2.org/facts/gaspo/, where service members can publicly post their pledge to quit.

Also on the website, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Larry Williams, public health emergency officer, will answer questions about smokeless tobacco. Installations planning cessation events will find ideas, an event registration page, pledge cards, and downloadable promotional materials.

Service members and their friends, families and other supporters are invited to join the event on Facebook at www.facebook/ucanquit2.org. Those planning to quit can get a “Kiss me, I’m Tobacco Free” badge to post on their Facebook page.

The website will showcase graphic photos of the devastating effects of surgery for oral cancer, which has been linked to smokeless tobacco use. Those who use smokeless tobacco are marked by bulging cheeks, gunk stuck in teeth, permanently discolored teeth, and spitting cups -- all universally unappealing. Visitors will also find hard-hitting facts that dispel the myth that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to smoking. For example, almost half of those who contract oral cancer die within five years, and one American dies from oral cancer every hour.

“Don’t let spitting and chewing get in the way of your personal relationships,” Buckler urged. “Take this opportunity to do something for yourself and those you love. Kiss smokeless tobacco goodbye and experience the benefits to your social life and health.”

Enrolling in the website’s comprehensive support system, Train2Quit, can be the first step in the journey to saying goodbye to smokeless tobacco. The system features interactive components such as quit tools, self-assessment questionnaires, and quizzes.

Service members can create a customized quit plan with a calendar to track progress and learn how to beat cravings, overcome weight gain and cope with nicotine withdrawal. The site also has personal quit coaches, available 24/7, to get answers to questions about becoming tobacco free.

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