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The true cost of $moking.....

(U.S. Air Force Graphic By Tech. Sgt. Rhonda Moraski)

(U.S. Air Force Graphic By Tech. Sgt. Rhonda Moraski)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- The American Lung Association reports 443,000 Americans die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and second-hand smoke exposure, making tobacco the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. That is an incredibly frightening statement. Not frightening just because of the nearly one-half million deaths reported each year, but due to the use of a single word - preventable.

With knowledge of the devastating side effects of tobacco so prevalent in today's society, one could assume nearly all tobacco users are fully aware of what "could" happen to their health due to tobacco use. In contrast of this awareness, millions of Americans continue to use tobacco products. It would appear the human brain has a defense mechanism in place that convinces tobacco users "it might happen to someone else, but it won't happen to me". This may be a positive outlook on the situation, but in reality, it's difficult to hide from the aforementioned statistics.

Arguably, next to your health, the most damaging effect of nicotine dependence is the extreme burden on your bank account. In today's economy, even non-users are aware of how expensive the cost of a nicotine habit is. In fact, in the last 10 years, the costs and taxes associated with nicotine products have more than doubled. In some states a pack of cigarettes costs upwards of $10.

With this in mind, it would be logical to predict a decreased customer base to accompany this drastic increase in costs. However, history actually shows the opposite. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to matter how much tobacco is taxed or how much the costs are increased, a nicotine-dependent person will continually pay the growing costs in order to continue their habit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average smoker will spend approximately $3,500 per year on cigarettes. That is a respectable down payment on a new car. If you're not in the market for a new car, think about the summer vacation you could take your family on with an extra $3,500. Additionally, that cost per year does not include tobacco related costs like increases in medical and dental care, lost productivity at work and home, even things you wouldn't normally consider like depreciation of your home and car due to smoke damage.

If your health and wallet are not good enough reasons to consider your options for quitting, think of your career. It's no secret how important annual fitness tests have become in all Department of Defense services. For military members, keeping your body fit to fight is a high priority, and many members have been relieved of duty for failing to maintain required fitness levels. According to the DoD's website www.ucanquit2.org, military members who smoke score markedly lower on their physical fitness tests. While it should come as no surprise that smokers have slower run times when compared to non smokers it has also been noted that smokers falter behind when it comes to pushups and sit-ups as well.

One of the many benefits offered to you for serving your country is help kicking the habit. The Offutt Health and Wellness Center has streamlined the process and reduced barriers of getting help when you're ready to quit. Even if you are just considering making a change, call the center at 294-5977 and find out what services they have to offer.