Military Service Members and Veterans
If you are a military veteran, you’re more likely to smoke cigarettes than civilians. Smoking is even more common among those who have been deployed overseas. Smoking increases your risk for lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and many other diseases.
- More than 1 in 5 (21.6%) veterans in the United States reported being current cigarette smokers.*
The high prevalence of tobacco use among military and veteran personnel has a significant financial impact. During 2010, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) spent an estimated $2.7 billion on smoking-related ambulatory care, prescription drugs, hospitalizations, and home health care.*
Learn what percent of people currently smoke cigarettes, both in the United States overall and among specific populations.
Learn the real stories of military service members and veterans who suffer from smoking-related diseases and disabilities.
Meet Brian. Brian, age 63, lives in Texas. An Air Force veteran, Brian had his first heart attack at age 35 while he was stationed in England. He quit smoking in 2009 and received a heart transplant in July 2012. While Brian remained smokefree, the damage caused by years of smoking continued to affect his body. In January 2017, Brian was diagnosed with lung cancer and had part of his lung removed.
Meet James. James, age 48, lives in New York and began smoking at age 14. He quit smoking in 2010 to reduce his risk for health problems and now bikes 10 miles every day.
Meet Mark. Mark, age 47, lives in California and started smoking as a teenager. He continued smoking during military service in the Persian Gulf and in civilian life until he developed rectal cancer at age 42.
Meet Michael. Michael, age 57, lives in Alaska and began smoking at age 9. At 44, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it harder and harder to breathe and can cause death.
Meet Nathan. Nathan lived in Idaho. A member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, he was exposed to secondhand smoke at work that caused permanent lung damage and triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job. His illness led to his death in October 2013. He was 54.
Learn more about all Tips participants in our Real Stories section.
Get free help to quit smoking by calling a quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Quitline coaches can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support.
If you are active duty or a retired service member, you and your family can access cessation counseling, cessation medicines, quitlines, and other services through your TRICARE coverage and Department of Defense programs.
- Visit UCanQuit2External a Department of Defense program to help people in the US military quit tobacco. The site includes a live chat feature and provides personalized online support from coaches to TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries and those who are assisting them in quitting tobacco use.
- Join SmokeFreeMILExternal, a text message support program to help military service members quit tobacco use. You will receive encouragement 24/7 for up to 8 weeks, get advice and tips on how to quit and stay quit, or text a keyword about your mood to get appropriate advice. Text MIL to 47848 or visit the site for more information.
- Sign up for the Freedom QuitlineExternal, a research study that enrolls TRICARE beneficiaries who are motivated to quit smoking. Participants will receive free telephone-based counseling, as well as nicotine replacement therapy. Call 1-844-I-AM-FREE (1-844-426-3733) or visit the website for more information.
- Understand the tobacco cessation servicesExternal that are available to you through TRICARE, including counseling and prescription and over-the-counter medications to support and help you quit tobacco use.
- Find more information and resources about how to quit smoking on the Tobacco-Free LivingExternal page of the Operation Live Well website.
Are you in the Air Force?
- Contact your local Military Treatment Facility (MTF) and/or Health Promotion team for local tobacco cessation resourcesExternal.
Are you in the Army?
- Visit the Army Public Health CenterExternal to learn more about Tobacco-Free Living & VapingExternal.
Are you in the Navy?
- Find resources and tools to help you quit tobacco through Tobacco Free LivingExternal Program at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center.External
- You can also visit your local health promotion office or talk with your medical or dental provider at your military treatment facility.
Are you in the Marine Corps?
- Learn more about the Operation Tobacco-Free MarineExternal (OTFM) Tobacco Cessation Program.
- Talk with your medical staff or visit your battalion aid station.
Are you in the US Coast Guard?
- Get more information from the Office of Work-Life Programs about the Tobacco Cessation ProgramExternal.
If you are a veteran enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, you have access to VA resources and services to help you quit smoking. Smoking cessation counseling is available at all VA medical centers, and FDA-approved smoking cessation medications are available through all VA pharmacy programs. Use the Veterans Health Administration Facility LocatorExternal to find a VA health care facility near you.
- Visit The VA’s Tobacco and HealthExternal page to find information about:
- Quitting tobacco use.
- Smoking cessation medications.
- Tobacco cessation counseling.
- Find tools, resources, and support to help you become tobacco-free at SmokefreeVETExternal.
- Learn how nicotine replacement therapy can increase your chances of quittingExternal.
- Enroll in text messaging cessation supportExternal at SmokefreeVET. Text VET to 47848 for support in English, or VETesp for support in Spanish
- Call the VA National Quitline at 1-855-QUIT-VET. Get more information about the VA National QuitlineExternal.
- Contact your primary care team today to learn more about the resources that are available to help you quit tobacco use.
*Tobacco Product Use Among Military Veterans — United States, 2010–2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2018.