Military Service Members and Veterans
If you are a service member or military veteran, you’re more likely to use tobacco products than civilians. Cigarette smoking is more common among service members who have been deployed overseas. Cigarette smoking increases your risk for lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and many other diseases.
- Over 1/3 of service members start using tobacco after they enter military service.1
- During 2010–2015, more than 1 in 5 (21.6%) veterans in the United States reported being current cigarette smokers.2 The rate of cigarette smoking among Veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System is significantly lowerpdf iconexternal icon [PDF – 4.1 MB]. In 2018, 14.6% of Veterans enrolled for care reported being a current cigarette smoker.3
In addition to adversely affecting their health, the high prevalence of tobacco use among military and veteran personnel also has a significant financial impact. In 2014, tobacco use cost the Department of Defense nearly $1.8 billion in medical and non-medical costs.4 During 2010, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) spent an estimated $2.7 billion on smoking-related ambulatory care, prescription drugs, hospitalizations, and home health care.1
- Know the Facts
- Quitting Help
- Resources for Active Duty or Retired Service Members
- Service-Specific Resources and Programs
- Resources for Veterans Enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System
- Resources for Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program Enrollees
- Real Stories: Military Service Members in Tips®
- For More Information
Get free help to quit smoking by calling a quitline: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Veterans who receive their health care through the VA can call the VA national quitlineexternal icon at 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838). Quitline coaches can answer questions, help you develop a quit plan, and provide support.
If you are looking for help to quit smokeless tobaccoexternal icon you can text “SPIT” to 333888. If you are looking to quit using e-cigarettes, check out This Is Quittingexternal icon, a free mobile program designed to help young people quit using e-cigarettes.
If you are an active duty or a retired service member, you and your family may access cessation counseling, cessation medicines, quitlines, and other services through your TRICARE coverage and through Department of Defense programs. If you are in the Reserves or National Guard, check out the resources below. There are also resources available in your local area, including your state quitline, which you can reach by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Visit YouCanQuit2external icon, a Department of Defense program to help people in the US military quit tobacco use. The site includes a live chat feature and provides personalized online support from coaches to TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries and others who are assisting them in quitting tobacco use.
- Understand the tobacco cessation services external iconthat are available to you through TRICARE, including counseling, prescription medication, and over-the-counter medications to help you quit tobacco use.
- Find more information and resources about how to quit smoking on the Tobacco-Free Livingexternal icon webpage 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 icon.
Are you in the Army?
- Visit the Army Public Health Centerexternal icon to learn more about Tobacco-Free Living & Vapingexternal icon.
Are you in the Navy?
- Find resources and tools to help you quit tobacco use through the Tobacco-Free Livingexternal icon Program at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center.external icon
- 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 icon (OTFM) Tobacco Cessation Program.
- Visit your battalion aid station or talk with your local medical staff.
Are you in the US Coast Guard?
- Get more information from the Office of Work-Life Programs about the Tobacco Cessation Programexternal icon.
Visit Tricare.mil/UCanQuit2external icon to get resources to help motivate you and increase your confidence so you can quit tobacco for good.
If you are a veteran enrolled in the US 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 icon to find a VA health care facility near you.
- Visit The VA’s Tobacco and Healthexternal icon page to find information about:
- Quitting tobacco use.
- Cessation medications.
- Cessation counseling.
- Find tools, resources, and support to help you become tobacco-free at SmokefreeVETexternal icon.
- Learn how nicotine replacement therapy can increase your chances of quittingexternal icon.
- Enroll in text messaging cessation supportexternal icon 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 (1-855-784-8838). Get more information about the VA national quitlineexternal icon.
- Contact your primary care team today to learn more about the resources that are available to help you quit tobacco use.
You have access to the FEHB plan tobacco cessation benefitexternal icon if you are a federal employee whose Condition of Employment includes:
- Membership in a military unit and who has elected coverage in the FEHB Program.
- An activated federal employee eligible and is electing to maintain FEHB enrollment during military service.
- A Department of Defense civilian employee electing coverage in the FEHB program.
- A veteran, who makes up about 30% of the federal workforce.5
- A family member included as a beneficiary under a FEHB enrollee.
The tobacco cessation benefit covers treatment for all forms of tobacco use, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco. Because the combination of counseling and medication gives tobacco users the best chance of quitting successfully, the benefit covers:
- At least two quit attempts per year, and at least four tobacco cessation counseling sessions per quit attempt. These behavioral interventions include individual counseling, group counseling, and proactive telephone counseling.
- All seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications, including over-the-counter tobacco cessation medications, with a doctor’s prescription or as part of a plan-approved tobacco cessation program. This includes combination nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
- These benefits are provided with no copayments or coinsurance and are not subject to deductibles or annual or life time dollar limits.
For more information on how to access the benefit, please contact your health plan or consult your plan’s brochureexternal icon.
Learn the real stories of military service members and veterans who suffer from smoking-related diseases and disabilities.
Learn more about all Tips participants in our Real Stories section.
Meet Brian H. 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.
- US Department of Defense. Survey of Health-Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel 2005. Washington, DC: US Department of Defense; 2006.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco product Use among military veterans—United States, 2010–2015. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2018; 67:7–12.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs. 2018 Survey of Veteran Enrollees’ Health and Use of Healthcare Data Findings Reportpdf iconexternal icon [PDF – 4.1 MB]. Washington, DC: US Department of Veterans Affairs; 2019.
- Elenberg K, et al. Cost of Tobacco Use & Exposure, Overweight and Obesity, and High Alcohol Consumption within the TRICARE Prime and Standard Population: Technical Report., 2016.
- Office of Personnel Management. OPM Releases Veteran Employment Dataexternal icon. Washington, DC: Office of Personnel Management,; 2017.