Celebrate This Veterans Day Tobacco Free
If you are currently serving in the military, you’re more likely to smoke cigarettes than civilians. Protect yourself and your loved ones by quitting tobacco products completely.
Each Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who served in the United States military. We recognize the difficult sacrifices you and your family have made to protect our country. Your health shouldn’t be one of those sacrifices. If you are currently serving in the military, you’re more likely to smoke cigarettes than civilians. Smoking is even more common for those of you who have been deployed. Protect yourself and your loved ones by quitting tobacco products completely.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, you’re at high risk for developing serious illnesses and even dying. Using tobacco products increases your risk for developing serious health problems that can dramatically impact your life and your family, including cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The smoke exhaled from burning tobacco products, known as secondhand smoke, also causes sickness and death. Children who breathe in secondhand smoke are more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks. In nonsmoking adults, secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks and cause heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
More veterans and active-duty military personnel use tobacco compared with other U.S. citizens. About three in ten veterans report using tobacco products. Almost 40% of people in the military who smoke cigarettes report that they started using tobacco after enlisting in service. High stress levels, peer influence, and easy access to lower-priced tobacco products are some of the factors driving tobacco use in the military.
The good news is that quitting tobacco greatly reduces your risk for disease, infertility, and early death.
- Just one year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
- Within five years of quitting smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half.
- Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for lung cancer drops by half.
The health benefits of quitting tobacco use are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, but there are benefits at any age. You are never too old to quit.
Quitting tobacco use can be hard. But millions of people have been able to quit using tobacco for good. In fact, three in five adults who ever smoked have quit. You can quit, too.
Most smokers try to quit several times before they succeed. Every quit attempt gets you closer to quitting for good. By learning from what worked and what didn’t work in past quit attempts, you can give yourself a better chance of quitting the next time. One way to quit successfully is by lining up support. For example, you can:
- Join CDC’s 30 Tobacco Free Days Facebook eventexternal icon for veterans and active-duty military service members
- Chat live with a counselorexternal icon or sign up for text message supportexternal icon
- Team up with friends, family, or co-workers for encouragementexternal icon
- Participate in social media conversations
Helping veterans and their families quit using tobacco is one way we can thank you for your service. Visit CDC’s How to Quit Smoking web page, featuring a Quit Guide and additional Quitting Resources.
Call a Quitline
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Quitline (for veterans receiving care from the VA): 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838)
Freedom Quitline (for TRICARE beneficiaries): 1-844-I-AM-FREE (1-844-426-3733)
Mark was already a cigarette smoker by the time he entered the Air Force at age 19. He remembers switching to snuff, a finely ground tobacco, because of the potential danger a lit cigarette posed in in the field. “You don’t want a light from smoking giving away your position to the enemy,” said Mark.
Mark went on to serve two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He used cigarettes and smokeless tobacco during this time. He smoked a pack a day until he was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2009. Rectal cancer is a type of colorectal cancer. All the cancers in this group are more common in people who smoke cigarettes than in nonsmokers.
Mark tried to quit using cigarettes and smokeless tobacco several times. He finally quit both completely after the cancer diagnosis. Mark shared that while the first two weeks without tobacco were hard, it helped to think of himself as a nonsmoker. “Instead of fighting the cravings, I told myself, ‘Yes, it would feel fantastic to have some nicotine, but you’re not a drug user anymore,’ and in a short time the craving went away.”
Mark used tobacco during his service with the U.S. Air Force, and finally quit after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
- November 2018: CDC’s 30 Tobacco Free Days Facebook eventexternal icon for veterans and active-duty military service members
- November 15, 2018: American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeoutexternal icon