Smoking rate among voluntary soldiers down 40 percent over eight years: HPA
he rate of tobacco use among voluntary military personnel has declined 40 percent over eight years, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said yesterday, touting a program it launched with the Ministry of National Defense in 2003 to help military personnel quit smoking.
The smoking rate of voluntary military personnel fell from 33.2 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent last year, the agency said.
The free program to help soldiers quit smoking includes team competitions, lectures, counseling and counselor training, it said.
The program has established outpatient clinics at branches of the Armed Forces General Hospital to help soldiers quit smoking, and has reduced designated smoking areas on military bases from 1,796 in 2009 to 1,029 in the first half of this year, the agency said.
Smokers have a significantly higher risk of injury than non-smokers, as smoking has been linked to slower healing and injury recovery, diminished oxygen and blood flow to tissues, and increased susceptibility to bone fractures, the agency said, citing a US survey conducted last year.
It cited another US study published last year, suggesting that tobacco use costs the US Department of Defense an estimated US$1.6 billion a year through related medical care, increased hospitalization and lost days of work, among others.
The statistics suggest that building a non-smoking military force is important to keep the personnel healthy and save resources, the agency added.
Last year, 1,326 military personnel visited the clinics to quit smoking and the average abstinence rate after six months was 24 percent, while 813 people visited the clinics on military bases and their average abstinence rate after six months was 29 percent, it added.
As studies have shown that peer tobacco use is an important factor affecting soldiers’ intentions to use tobacco, the ministry in 2011 launched a tobacco and betel nut prevention counseling program, training more than 400 counselors a year.
The ministry has urged military personnel to call its tobacco and betel nut prevention hotline (0800-580-791) for free consultation.
The agency has called on the public to make use of more than 4,200 cooperating healthcare facilities for free consultation to quit smoking or call its hotline at 0800-63-63-63.