Tobacco and Health
Tobacco and Health
There is a long history of smoking and other tobacco use in the military. Many Veterans used tobacco while they served, particularly during deployment. Now seven out of every 10 Veterans who smoke would like to quit — for both the physical benefits and their mental health.
A majority of them are successful.
If you’re one of those Veterans, or if the Veteran in your life is trying to quit, you’ve come to the right place. VA offers resources for making a quit plan and sticking to it.
It’s been said before and it’s true: You can quit smoking. And we want to be there when you do.
Resources to Help
Smoking affects everyone differently. VA offers specialized resources, tailored for different people, facing different challenges:
People who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to have experienced anxiety, panic, stress, depression, or suicidal thoughts. The challenges of quitting smoking can also lead to increased stress and anxiety. Quitting, though, can increase the effectiveness of certain medications — particularly those used for depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders — as tobacco smoke affects how some are absorbed and how fast they are used by your body.
For some people, smoking and drinking alcohol go together. In fact, approximately 70 percent of people with an addictive disorder also use tobacco products. The combination of smoking and alcohol heightens your risk for oral, throat, and esophageal cancers. But quitting can help: Scientific studies have shown that quitting smoking will increase the chance that you can also successfully stop using alcohol and other drugs. In addition, those who quit smoking in recovery are less likely to relapse to alcohol or other drugs.
Managing HIV can be difficult, and that hard work can be undone by tobacco. Smoking can affect how antiretroviral medications work as well as increase the risk for both non-AIDS-related and AIDS-related illnesses. Quitting smoking can decrease the risk of heart disease, pneumonia, and HIV-related symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and body pain.
Women who smoke can face unique health effects — as well as unique challenges in quitting. These health effects can include difficulty getting pregnant, early menopause, osteoporosis, cervical cancer, and breast cancer. When coupled with birth control pills, smoking can also increase the risk for blood clots, stroke, and heart problems. Let your VA health care provider know if you use tobacco and are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, as smoking can cause serious problems for both pregnant women and their babies.
A Proven Approach
Our approach centers on the proven combination of medication and counseling, and we offer the following resources to help you on your journey:
Medications: Using FDA-approved medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion, and varenicline, while you’re quitting can help you manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cope with the urge to smoke. Your VA provider can guide you through the available options to help you decide which is likely to work best for you.
Counseling: Combining smoking cessation medications with counseling offers you the best chance of quitting — and staying tobacco-free. VA offers tobacco cessation counseling, in person or over the phone, to talk about your tobacco use, ways to get tobacco out of your life, coping with triggers, and changing your lifestyle to remain tobacco-free. To learn more, contact your VA health care provider.
Smoking Quitline: Did you know? Tobacco quitlines can double your chances of quitting, compared with getting no support at all. Call to make your quit plan, get individual counseling, and develop strategies for preventing relapse. Quitline counselors offer continued support through follow-up calls, and counseling is available in both English and Spanish.
- Call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET, Monday – Friday
SmokefreeVET: Need a little encouragement while you’re quitting tobacco or smokeless tobacco? The free SmokefreeVET text message program will provide you with daily advice and support. Or, you can reach out when you feel tempted to use tobacco or stressed about quitting using the words URGE, STRESS, SMOKED, or DIPPED.
- Text VET to 47848 or visit veterans.smokefree.gov to sign up.
- For messages in Spanish, text VETesp to 47848 or visit smokefree.gov/VETespanol.
Stay Quit Coach: This mobile app was designed to help you quit smoking. Use it to develop a customized plan, taking into account your personal reasons for quitting. It will provide information, motivational messages, interactive tools for dealing with urges, and support to help you stay smoke-free.