Marines smoking less, drinking more

25 Jan 2007 | Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Fleischman

Marines are lighting up those ‘cowboy killers’ less but they are hitting the bottle more.

Released this month, the 2005 Survey of Health-Related Behaviors explains how much service members’ use alcohol and tobacco.

The survey, conducted by Research Triangle Institute, a nonprofit research firm based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, included more than 16,000 randomly selected service members from all active-duty pay grades.

“These survey findings provide very useful information for the department to target programs that continue to enhance the physical and mental well-being of our troops,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in a Department of Defense press release.

Since the last survey in 2002, cigarette use has declined from 33.8 percent to 32.2 percent and heavy smokers, categorized as smoking a pack or more a day, declined from 13.1 percent 11.1 percent in 2005.

Specifically in the Marine Corps, smoking decreased from 38 percent to 36.3 percent and heavy smokers showed a reduction from 14.6 percent to 11.1 percent.

“We attribute the decline to a DOD wide push toward health conscience behavior, physician involvement for quitting smoking and smoking cessation programs,” said Dr. Robert Bray, senior program director for RTI.

Not everything is in decline according to the survey – heavy drinking has increased.

Those surveyed who reported being heavy drinkers, having five or more drinks in one sitting at least once a week, increased from 18.1 percent to 18.5 percent.

Marine Corps wide heavy drinking increased from 25.4 percent to 27.7 percent.

“It’s a good news and bad news story; the good news is that it did not increase much under the circumstances, but the bad news is that there is still a high percentage participating in heavy drinking,” said Bray.

This is the ninth survey in a series of anonymous surveys asking active duty service members about various lifestyle and health-related behaviors, according to a DOD press release.

“We’re pleased to know that even though the troops have been in some really intense environments, their usage of tobacco and alcohol has not increased much and we’re hopeful that service members can reduce the percentages through the efforts put forth by the DOD,” concluded Bray.

For help with smoking cessation on Camp Lejeune contact the Naval Hospital Health Promotion Department at 451-3712 and for help with alcohol related problems contact the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program at 451-0256 or SemperFit Health Promotion Alcohol Abuse Prevention Specialist Caroline Graham at 451-0021.