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Cigarette Smoking in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

In 2016, VA researchers looked at findings from the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, a survey study of 20,563 Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) era Veterans.  The survey included questions on cigarette use in the past year. 

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Cigarette Smoking among OEF/OIF Era Veterans

VA looked at data from the “National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans,” a survey study of 20,563 Veterans who deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) or who served elsewhere during these conflicts. VA researchers described how study participants’ sociodemographic, military, and health characteristics relate to cigarette smoking.

Study Participants
• Non-smoker: 42.7%
• Current Smoker: 32.5%
• Former smoker: 24.8%

Compared to non-smokers and former smokers, a greater percentage of smokers were:
• 24-34 years old (current smoker: 70.7%, non-smoker: 50.3%, former smoker: 52.4%)
• Earning less than $35,000 per year (current smoker: 44.2%, non-smoker: 26.0%, former smoker: 24.8%)
• Separated/divorced (current smoker: 18.5%, non-smoker: 12.3%, former smoker: 12.2%)
• Never married/single (current smoker: 27.2%, non-smoker: 20.6%, former smoker: 17.2%)

Current smoker
Men: 86.6%
Women: 13.4%  

Men: 81.6%
Women: 18.4%

Among current smokers, average number of cigarettes smoked per day:
Men: 12.6 daily
Women: 10.3 daily

Military Service
Current Smoker
Active Duty: 58.3%
Reserve : 20.1%      
National Guard: 21.6% 

Active Duty: 49.1%          
Reserve : 28.9%       
National Guard: 22.0%  

Branch of Service
Current Smoker
Army: 53.0%
Air Force: 13.8%
Marine Corps: 14.8%
Navy: 18.3%

Army: 48.6%        
Air Force: 23.4%        
Marine Corps: 10.7%  
Navy: 17.3%        

• 24-34 (current smoker: 40.0%, non-smoker: 37.4%, former smoker: 22.6%)
• 35-44 (current smoker: 25.8%, non-smoker: 49.5%, former smoker: 24.7%)
• 45-54 (current smoker: 20.1%, non-smoker: 50.7%, former smoker: 29.2%)
• ≥55 (current smoker: 15.6%, non-smoker: 48.7%, former smoker: 35.7%)

Health Risks
Smoking increases the risk of serious health problems for Veterans. While many Veterans identify as non-smokers and former smokers, there is still a large percentage that currently smoke and, as a result, face higher health risks.

Health characteristics that were more likely to be reported by current smokers rather than non-smokers were:
• Depression
• A respiratory problem
• Seizures, blackouts, or convulsions
• Heavy alcohol consumption
• Poor health 

VA health care services can help Veterans quit smoking. Free help is available. Learn how other Veterans have quit tobacco with help from VA at

Call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to make a quit plan with trained counselors, or text VET (VETesp for Spanish) to 47848 to sign up for daily text messages offering support and encouragement while quitting.

Findings from the New Generation Study

The findings are from the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, a study on the health of OEF/OIF Veterans and Veterans from the same era who were not deployed. Read the study abstract.

Health concerns?

Learn more about quitting smoking at

Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Find out if you qualify. OEF, OIF, and Operation New Dawn combat Veterans are eligible for VA health care for five years after leaving the military. There are other ways to qualify too, including by having a service-connected disability.


Cypel YS, Hamlett-Berry K, Barth SM, Christofferson DE, Davey VJ, Eber S, Schneiderman AI, Bossarte RM.  Cigarette smoking and sociodemographic, military, and health characteristics of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans: 2009-2011 National Health Study for a New Generation of US Veterans. Public Health Reports 2016; 131: 714-727. 


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