The Doctor Is In

TRICARE health news, straight from the desk of Brig. Gen. W. Bryan Gamble, M.D.

The Doctor Is In: Time to Quit

February 12, 2013


As a physician for more than 30 years, I’ve seen first-hand the damage smoking does to otherwise healthy people. Many people find quitting smoking one of the hardest challenges they ever face. Smoking contributed to the early deaths of both my parents, and I feel very passionately about helping members of the Armed Forces and their families go smoke free. TRICARE offers help if you’re looking to quit, which can make the difference when you try to go tobacco free.

Tobacco use has a devastating effect on Americans’ health. A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 443,000 Americans die prematurely each year from using tobacco. A staggering 8.6 million Americans live with a serious illness because of smoking, making it the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death.

Quitting tobacco is a difficult journey but you don’t have to do it alone. Joining a tobacco cessation program doubles your chance of quitting successfully.  TRICARE’s Quit Tobacco program has an interactive website at where you can find tips for quitting and tools to create your own quit plan. Coaches are available 24-7 via live chat to support quit plans and guide you to the help you need. Toll-free help line telephone numbers are also available for each TRICARE region in the U.S.:

  • North Region: 866-459-8766
  • South Region: 877-414-9949
  • West Region: 888-713-4597

In addition to negative effects on your health, tobacco use impacts readiness and personal performance. Smokers are more likely to fail physical training exams, experience frequent injuries and suffer from impaired vision and respiratory function. Using smokeless tobacco (i.e., dipping) has the same health risks as smoking tobacco.  It also increases the risk for oral cancers in long-term users and impacts dental readiness in active duty service members.

People use tobacco for many reasons, but there are many more reasons to quit. You experience the health benefits of quitting right away – your blood pressure and pulse rate begin to return to normal after just 20 minutes.  Heart disease risk is substantially reduced within 1 to 2 years of quitting. Within weeks, your blood circulation and lung function improve, making breathing easier. Continuing to be tobacco free lowers the risk of getting lung cancer by half, and decreases the risk of developing other cancers connected to tobacco use.

The health risk to others from your secondhand smoke is another reason to stop smoking, as it can be just as damaging as firsthand smoke. Children are especially vulnerable to toxins from secondhand smoke, which cause diseases like bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections. Over time, it can cause lung and throat cancers as well as heart disease in those around you.  There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke – any contact is damaging.

In closing, take steps today to quit tobacco use and take advantage of the education, tools, and help your TRICARE benefit provides to stop smoking. The health and financial benefits are immediate. You improve your own and your loved ones health, save money, set a good example, and increase your readiness. Your loved ones will be grateful for a lifetime. Visit for more information and support today.

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