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Army Wants to 'Snuff' Out Unhealthy Habit

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FAYETTEVILLE — Using smokeless tobacco is a bad habit theArmywants to break within the ranks. They say it affects a soldier's overall readiness.

Sgt. 1st Class Harold Wolfe started using smokeless tobacco when he joined the Army 17 years ago.

"A way of dealing with boredom, guard days, being in the field," said Wolfe.

With the help of an Army tobacco cessation program, he gave it up a month ago. He wanted to be a better role model for his kids.

The Department of Defensewould like more service members to quit. In 1995, 21 percent of male soldiers were dipping.

It went down to 14.4 percent last year, but that is far below their goal of less than 4 percent by 2000.

"We've seen through research, people who use smokeless tobacco particularly have a decreased physical fitness score and also have impaired their wound and injury healing," said Dolly Metaxakis, Womack Health Promotion director.

The military is smaller, but there are more missions. The men and women of the armed forces have to be as ready as possible, and that means being in top physical shape.

They say smoking or using smokeless tobacco hurts fitness, and Wolfe agrees. He believes he is a new and improved soldier by not chewing.

"I've gotten better lifting with my strength. My run times are a lot better," said Wolfe.

But not all soldiers are willing to quit. Knowing the health risks, Sgt. Kelly Crooper has chewed for six years.

"I constantly score above a 280 on the PT test, so I don't see it affecting physical fitness at all," said Crooper.

The military is also encouraging soldiers to stop smoking. Cigar use has actually gone up.

Along with the tobacco cessation program at Womack, health leaders also are handing out posters and going to health fairs.