Military Service Members and Veterans

Know the Facts

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.

  • Many service members start using tobacco after they enter military service.
  • During 2010–2015, more than 1 in 5 (21.6%) veterans in the United States reported being current cigarette smokers.1 In 2018, 14.6% of veterans enrolled for care reported being a current cigarette smoker.2

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, the Defense Department spent nearly $1.8 billion in medical and non-medical costs related to tobacco use.3 During 2010, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) spent an estimated $2.7 billion on smoking-related ambulatory care, prescription drugs, hospitalizations, and home health care.5

Get Help Quitting Tobacco

Start your quit journey by visiting a Quit Guide.

Call a quitline for free help to quit smoking:

For help quitting smokeless tobaccoexternal icon: text “SPIT” to 333888.

For help quitting e-cigarettes: This Is Quittingexternal icon.

Resources for Active Duty or Retired Service Members

If you are an active duty or a retired service member, you and your family may access cessation counseling, cessation medicines, and other services through your TRICARE coverage and through Defense Department programs. If you are in the Reserve 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.

Resources for Military Families
  • Visit the Defense Department’s YouCanQuit2external icon campaign to help people in the US military quit tobacco use. The site includes a live chat feature where coaches provide personalized online support, resources, tips, and encouragement to those who want to quit tobacco, no matter where they are in their journey.
  • 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 external iconwebsite.
Service-Specific Resources and Programs
Thinking About Quitting? Tobacco Cessation Resources - screenshot of PDF

Find resourcespdf iconexternal icon [PDF-794 KB] at the Defense Department’s YouCanQuit2external icon campaign to help motivate you and increase your confidence so you can quit tobacco for good.

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Resources for Veterans Enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System

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.

Picture of a senior man getting his blood pressure taken.
Resources for Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program Enrollees
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Logo

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 Defense Department civilian employee electing coverage in the FEHB program.
  • A veteran, who makes up about 30% of the federal workforce.4
  • 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 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.

Real Stories: Military Service Members and Veterans in Tips®

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 Beatrice R. Beatrice, age 40, lives in New York and formerly served in the U.S. Navy. She began smoking regularly at age 13. A mother of two, Beatrice quit smoking in 2010 because she wanted to be around for her family.

Brian H.

Meet Brian H. Brian, age 65, lives in Texas and started smoking at age 8. Since his first heart attack at age 35, Brian has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had bypass surgery, a heart transplant, lung cancer, and part of his lung removed due to smoking.


Meet James F. 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 A. 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 P. Michael lived 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. Michael died in 2020 at age 64.


Meet Nathan M. Nathan, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, lived in Idaho. Exposure to secondhand smoke at work triggered asthma attacks so severe he had to leave his job. Lung damage led to his death in October 2013 at age 54.

For More Information

Learn what percentage of people currently smoke cigarettes, both in the United States overall and among specific populations.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Lewin Group. Cost of Tobacco Use & Exposure, Overweight and Obesity, and High Alcohol Consumption within the TRICARE Prime and Standard Population: Technical Report., 2016.
  4. Office of Personnel Management. OPM Releases Veteran Employment Dataexternal icon. Washington, DC: Office of Personnel Management, 2017.
  5. Barnett PG, Hamlett-Berry K, Sung HY, Max W. Health care expenditures attributable to smoking in military veteransexternal icon. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015;17(5):586-591.