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How to Help

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Tobacco and Health

How to Help

Veterans are more likely to succeed in quitting if they have support from the people around them.

Whether you’re a family member, a friend, or a health professional, you can play a critical role — and VA provides resources and helpful hints to assist you.

Family and Friends

Is the Veteran in your life trying to quit tobacco? Supporting those efforts with steps like these can add years to Veterans’ lives:

  • Ask what you can do to help. Every person who uses tobacco is different!

  • If you also use tobacco, consider quitting at the same time.

  • Emphasize that even people who quit successfully have doubts. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can be constant companions for Veterans, and it can be difficult to imagine a life without them. Remind Veterans of the positive changes that will occur in their lives after they quit.

  • Be ready to help, especially during the first few days after they quit. Veterans may need distractions or extra help with a tough situation — for instance, they may need support when going to a party or hanging out with other people who use tobacco.

  • Let them know they can take their time. Sometimes it takes a few tries for a person to quit and stay quit. Each attempt to quit tobacco is a learning experience, making success more likely.

  • Be positive. Keep your statements upbeat and focused on their efforts to quit. Adding pressure or guilt only creates stress for Veterans, which they may want to relieve by using tobacco.

  • Stay positive. Every attempt at quitting is a step forward, and relapsing does not mean failure. If a relapse occurs, help them figure out what caused it. Be encouraging, and let them know that you are proud of them for trying and that you will support them in another attempt to quit.

There are other steps you can take to encourage the Veteran in your life: Share reasons to quit tobacco and the most effective ways to do it.

Health Care Professionals

VA is committed to helping Veterans quit tobacco through an array of evidence-based cessation treatment services. At the core of these services is a Veteran’s access to tobacco cessation medication, as well as tobacco cessation counseling. Research shows that a patient who receives both counseling and cessation medications has the greatest chance of successfully quitting.

Whether you’re a primary care physician, mental health provider, dentist, or counselor, if a Veteran under your care is interested in quitting, we recommend sharing the following patient tools:

The quitline and SmokefreeVET text messaging program are both available in Spanish. Click the “Learn More” tab to find patient medication guides on smoking cessation medications.

VA also provides in-person tobacco cessation counseling for Veterans, both individually and in groups, and by phone. The counseling can be brief (less than 5 minutes) or more intensive (longer than 40 minutes) and involve multiple sessions. It can be offered by physicians as well as other clinicians.

For more information on interventions, please see the handbooks below. For more information on common tobacco-related comorbidities, please click the "Learn More" tab to find fact sheets on specific health concerns.

Tools and Publications

VA provides additional tobacco cessation resources for clinicians and providers. If the following resources are used in work and training settings, please credit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration.