Designation for Smokers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony M. Ward
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
As the duty day comes to a close, an exhausted Airman returns to their dorm ready to relax after a long and stressful day. Standing outside their dorm room, they proceed to light the cigarette that will give them the release they crave.

"Put that out! You're not allowed to smoke there," another Airman exclaims. The now annoyed Airman proceeds to put out their cigarette in wonderment of what the big deal is...

As many members of Team Holloman may know, smoking has been outlawed in many areas of the base, and limited to what are known as "designated smoking areas." For some, this policy has come as a welcome change, while others may find it inconvenient, not understanding the reason behind it.

"It's a safety concern and quality of life issue," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Jones, 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron dorm manager. "It's about ensuring the Airmen are safe because we need the Airmen."

Part of ensuring the Airmen are safe is considering the health risks they may take and attempt to lessen those risks.

"Everyone is aware that the Air Force has really, in the last decade or so, moved toward a nonsmoking environment," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, 49th Wing command chief. "The reason for that is there is scientific data quantifying that nonsmokers lead healthier lifestyles and have less medical needs in the long run than smokers."

Comparing the lifestyles of the smoker and nonsmoker, it is clear which is the safer route, though that route may not always be available because at times, nonsmokers are unavoidably affected by smokers.

"You have to take into consideration that when you smoke, the smoke doesn't just disappear. It has to go somewhere," said Jones. "Some nonsmokers hang out with smokers and even if they're outside, if the wind isn't blowing, the smoke is going to be right there in their face. When indoors, the smoke doesn't go anywhere at all."

Through research and education, the risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting have become widely known. Most people already realize the health risks smoking causes, just as most smokers realize the difficulty of quitting.

"There are many benefits to the nonsmoking lifestyle," said Tapia. "You'll be healthier and stand less chance of dying from a smoke-related cause. Your stamina will increase and exercising will become easier. For those interested in quitting, there are programs throughout the Air Force and here at Holloman such as the Smoking Cessation Class to help you do that."

Smoking certainly creates health risk, but for those who choose to smoke, there are designated areas for doing so.

"In most cases, we have placed smoking areas right beside the dormitories," said Jones. "This is to give smokers areas where they can smoke, but not discomfort those who don't, as well as lessening the risks of damage to the dorms."

Were smoking allowed in the dormitories, certain risk factors would exist such as fires, burn marks and odor. These risk factors once existed in days where smoking was allowed in nearly any location.

"In 1985, when I came in, you could smoke at your desk if you wanted to," said Tapia. "That culture has changed over the years. The smoking policy that we have here in the dorms is the same standard as the entire Air Force. I don't think there's a single base that allows smoking in the dormitories."

Along with damage risks to the dormitories, there are also environmental concerns involved with smoking in and around the dormitories.

"Other than the convenience factor, I see no benefits whatsoever of being able to smoke in and around the dormitories," said Tapia. "If someone smokes right outside of their dorm room, where do they put the cigarette butt? More than likely, they're just going to flick it off the balcony."

When smokers carelessly throw their cigarette butts wherever, it creates an unattractive environment and more work and inconvenience for others such as those on Bay Orderly detail.

"Cigarette butts are like trash," said Jones. "If you let trash pile up, it's going to start smelling and look disgusting. The same thing goes for cigarette butts. You then have people on Bay Orderly having to go around and pick them up whether they're a smoker or not."

So for several reasons, the Air Force has steadily moved toward an environment of nonsmoking while still providing those who do smoke areas in which to do it.

The Airman from the story's beginning now proceeds to enjoy their cigarette in a designated smoking area while at the same time, considers calling Smoking Cessation at (575) 572-5785.