SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The 21st Medical Squadron hopes to stymie the potential increase in use of alcohol and tobacco use by Airmen spending more time in their dorms due to COVID-19 by providing them with information on both products.
As part of the Health Promotion Wellness program, Carol Carr, 21st MDS Health Promotion Program coordinator, provided handouts to Airmen highlighting the dangers of alcohol and tobacco and mixing the pair.
“In stressful times, alcohol or tobacco may seem like a short-term fix, but long-term usage has side effects such as liver and lung damage, respectively,” Carr said. “It is also thought that a healthy diet and exercise routine may reduce your chances of [getting sick] and your symptoms.”
Tech. Sgt. Jean-Philippe Walker, 21st MDS operational support flight chief, also warned Airmen of the dangers of choosing to drink and smoke to calm stress during this time.
"During a time like this many airmen view alcohol as a constant in their lives and turn to drinking and smoking as the outlet for managing stress in a seemingly easy manner," he said. "However, the overuse of alcohol can lead to a shift in the way our brain interprets stress and creates a deficiency in our response to stress. This is a reason why Airmen should be careful when choosing alcohol as an outlet during a time like this. When considering the negative impact of their use, many Airmen gain a better perspective of where things can go and they also are more willing to change their drinking behaviors."
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, those who have tobacco cravings can diminish the urge by waiting 10 minutes and distract themselves during that period. Chewing sugarless gum, hard candy, eating raw carrots, celery, nuts or sunflower seeds or other crunchy foods can curb cravings.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends physical activity such as squats, deep knee bends, push-ups, running in place or walking up and down stairs to alleviate tobacco cravings. These exercises also help keep Airmen in shape for their requirements for the Air Force.
“That’s [one of the goals] of the Air Force – maintain your fitness level,” said Seth Cannello, 50th Force Support Squadron fitness and sports manager said. “It’s important to work out to stay in shape but also to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Carr also provided a PDF that highlights short- and long-term effects of smoking and drinking. According to information from Alcohol.org, studies show a combination of smoking and drinking can increase the risk of throat and esophageal cancer.
Drinking alcohol and smoking at the same time affects how quickly the body can metabolize both. The combination causes carcinogens from cigarettes stay in the bloodstream for longer. Carcinogens are the substance that causes cancer.
“(Smoking) affects the way your blood is transferred throughout your systems and closes off your capillaries which harms your ability to transfer blood to muscles and lungs,” Cannello said.
Not only do smoking and drinking hinder blood flow, drinking adds calories into a diet that Airmen wouldn’t have otherwise. Over time, the pair affect the ability to exercise and run.
“If people haven’t worked out and all the sudden they get back into that routine, it’s going to be tough,” he said. “Hopefully, people have been exercising throughout [COVID-19]. I guess we’ll find out come June when people have to start taking their tests again.”