Health officials want military members and veterans in Oklahoma to listen to former smokers in a national stop-smoking campaign.
Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Executive Director John Woods said the state’s 32,000 active-duty personnel and 280,000 veterans smoke at a much higher rate than other Oklahomans.
"It is engrained, unfortunately, too much into the military lifestyle, dating back from World War II when we were giving cigarettes in rations to our military men and women in partnership with the tobacco industry and the lies that they shared with those veterans and those military members," Woods said.
Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Doctor Bruce Dart said tobacco use has many detrimental side effects, especially for service members.
"Using tobacco reduces a soldier’s physical fitness and endurance. Military members who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of basic training, suffer injuries and have poor vision, all of which affect troop readiness," Dart said.
Former Air Force Master Sergeant Brian Hayden is featured in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign, which is running into the fall. Hayden smoked a pack a day by age 12, suffered a heart attack at 35 and lost a heart transplant over smoking before quitting in 2009.
"I went to cessation classes. I took medicine. I practiced deep breathing to control the cravings. I did every single thing they told me to do to quit smoking, and I finally was successful," Hayden said. "You know, I smoked for over 40 years, and if I can quit, you can quit too."
If the CDC campaign convinces anyone to quit, Woods said the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is ready to assist.