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Smoke-free dorms: Exploring the possbilities

WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. -- As we approach June and the implementation of our new smoke free dorm policy, the lives of our dorm residents, smokers and non-smokers alike are about to change ... perhaps forever. 

For most non-smokers and a few smokers, it may be seen as a time to celebrate. Some smokers may consider it an inconvenience, or the loss of one of their "rights," others may actually find it a life changing event. Consider the possibilities. 

According to the March Dental Population Health Tobacco Metrics - 24 percent of the active duty population at Whiteman smoke cigarettes. 

The smoking rate is highest among our young Airmen; as a result the overall percentage of smokers in our dorms is most likely closer to 30 percent. Studies indicate that at any given point in time approximately 20 percent of all smokers are preparing to quit. 

The remaining smokers shift back and forth from being content and not interested in quitting to thinking about quitting. Smokers switch back and forth between these categories depending on what is going on in their life, personally and professionally. 

The reasons why people smoke and why they quit are personal, and for many quitting and remaining tobacco free is not easy - relapse is part of the process. 

Quitting tobacco is complex due to the nature of nicotine addiction as well as the various behavioral, psychological, social and environmental aspects that impact an individual's tobacco use and ability to quit. 

Over the past 10 years, smokers have had many environmental restrictions placed on where they can smoke; this is one of the many factors contributing to the decline of smoking in our country. 

In some locations it is illegal, in many others it is socially unacceptable to smoke. 

Most people who smoke add self-imposed restrictions and boundaries such as not smoking in their personal vehicles or homes. 

Many smokers admit these environmental restrictions and newly introduced mandatory policies provide additional support and justification for either reducing the amount they smoke or support their decision to quit. 

I recently read, "The Art of Possibility," by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. It reminded me that each of us have a variety of options on how we can respond to any given situation in our life. We actually have a choice. 

The Zanders' suggest all options could be categorized into three types of responses: anger, resignation or possibility. 

If you are a smoker living in the dorms please consider how you will respond the day your dorm goes smoke free. 

Will you respond with anger - believing that "they" shouldn't be able to take away my right to smoke in my "home;" or with resignation - thinking that this will be inconvenient, but no big deal, I'll just step outside to smoke ... I might even add a pinch or dip on occasion while in the dorm to take the edge off, or with possibility - by exploring how this could impact you personally? 

Perhaps you were thinking about quitting soon anyway.
In my family we often say, "there are no coincidences." I would like to personally challenge every smoker living in Whiteman's dorms to think about the possibility of living a tobacco free lifestyle. 

If you are interested in learning more about our comprehensive tobacco cessation program, call the health and wellness center at 687-7662.