No ifs, ands or butts - Maxwell takes steps toward a tobacco-free force

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

6/8/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- As the 42nd Air Base Wing begins to implement a new Air Force Instruction regarding designated smoking areas, Maxwell takes steps toward a becoming a tobacco-free community.

"While we are restricting the areas in which people can use tobacco, our real goal is to get people away from using tobacco, period," said Col. Brian Killough, commander of the 42nd ABW. "It's to promote the overall health of our force and our families."

The new instruction impacts students at the Air University, who will be prohibited from using tobacco during school duty hours. This policy is in place for Professional Military Education and training, such as the Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Officer Training School and ROTC.

Instructors are asked to be role models and refrain from using tobacco while within student view.

Air Force Instruction 140-102 outlines guidelines for designated smoking areas and lists where tobacco is prohibited, such as in recreational areas, including the golf course and softball fields. "This applies to all tobacco use," Killough said, including smokeless tobacco.

The ABW will work with civil engineering to establish designated tobacco areas, or DTAs, that limit second-hand smoke exposure for others.

"Primarily we are to work with facility managers and commanders to determine the most appropriate locations of all DTAs on the installation," said Mickey Allen, director of the 42nd Civil Engineer Squadron. "These DTAs are to be located at least 50 feet from all common entrances, sidewalks and parking spaces."

Designated areas will be marked with signs and have butt cans. The ABW is considering moving unused bus stop enclosures, placing them in designated smoking areas. "They will be highly visible and provide some semblance of shelter for anyone who does want to utilize those areas," Killough said.

Studies found that 22 percent of active-duty Airmen use tobacco, four times the national average, and the Air Force aims to reduce the total to 12 percent by 2020.

"Tobacco costs the (Department of Defense) $1.6 billion in medical costs and work time annually," Killough said.

The new AFI is part of the Air Force's larger plan to become tobacco free, which also encourages smoking cessation classes.

"Sixty-nine percent of tobacco users say they would like to quit," Killough said. "We're providing them an environment to succeed in trying to do what they really want to do in the first place."

Berlinda Vaughn, a nurse at the Maxwell clinic who teaches the smoking cessation classes, helps tobacco users understand their obstacles and triggers. "Change your mindset, set your mind on reaching your goal," she tells participants.

The four-week class is necessary for those seeking smoking cessation medications, and is available through the Maxwell Health and Wellness Center and online.

"It has to be your decision and you have to believe in yourself," Vaughn said. "We want to reach our goals.