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Celebrate This Veteran's Day Tobacco Free

Veteran with his parents

Take advantage of the many resources available to help veterans quit tobacco use.

Brian, a veteran of the Air Force, started smoking cigarettes at age 8 because he thought it was cool. By the time he was in the eighth grade, he was smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day. Brian’s parents smoked, and he recalls that everyone around him smoked. “Smoking had become ingrained in my mind,” he said.

While in the Air Force, Brian struggled with job stress and often smoked to cope with the stress. One day, while stationed in England, Brian had severe chest pains while walking at work. “I was out of breath and sweating, and the pain got worse,” he said. Suddenly, he collapsed. Brian was having a heart attack — at age 35 — that was the result of smoking. Brian’s story is part of the Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign, and in his video he reminds others that “it’s hard to serve your country when you’re too weak to put on a uniform.”

Veteran with parents

This Veteran’s Day, CDC is supporting veterans by sharing free resources available to help them quit using tobacco.

This Veteran’s Day, CDC is supporting veterans by sharing free resources available to help them quit tobacco use. Cigarette smoking and other tobacco use are harmful to the health of any user, but for active-duty military personnel tobacco use can be especially problematic. As with all users, cigarette smoking increases risk for diseases among veterans and active-duty members, including lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and many others. Additionally, their strength and performance can be impaired by smoking, either through exposure to nicotine and other poisons in cigarettes, or through nicotine withdrawal. Tobacco use can also result in soldiers being absent from duty or being unable to perform necessary tasks. Further, service members who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of basic training and to experience accidents and injuries, which negatively impact troop readiness.

But the good news is that quitting significantly reduces your risk for heart attack, stroke, and some cancers. In addition to the health benefits, quitting smoking can also result in significant cost savings. The U.S. Department of Defense spends over $1.6 billion each year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalization, and lost days of work.

Quitting smoking is never easy, but many resources are available to help veterans and active-duty service members quit. These resources include cessation counseling, cessation medicines, quitlines, and other services through TRICARE coverage and Department of Defense programs. Smoking cessation counseling is also available at Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers, and FDA-approved smoking cessation medications are available through VA pharmacy programs. To find the VA health care facility nearest you, go to the Veterans Health Administration Facility Locator.

Following are additional resources for Veterans and active-duty service members:

  • Quitline for Veterans: 1-855-QUIT-VET
  • Quitlines for TRICARE members:
    • North region: 866-459-8766
    • South region: 877-414-9949
    • West region: 888-713-4597
  • Web Sites:
    • The VA’s Tobacco and Health page links to information about quitting and cessation medication and counseling.
    • SmokefreeVET offers text messaging cessation support. (Text VET to 47848 [for support in English] or VETesp [for support in Spanish]).
    • UCanQuit2.org is available to active-duty or retired service members, and offers text message cessation support and live chat instant messaging.
    • Military OneSource is a resource available to active-duty service members and their immediate family members.
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