Tobacco Use in VA
The military has a long history of tobacco use and a culture of smoking.
Many Veterans report their addiction to tobacco either began in the military or was reinforced during their service.
While 57% of the U.S. population has never smoked cigarettes, just 32% of Veterans receiving health care from VA report they never smoked.
Most Veterans in VA who smoke are white, non-Hispanic men, between the ages of 45 and 64.
Higher rates of tobacco use in some groups of Veterans
Although many Veterans have a history of smoking, today the rate of current Veterans smokers is similar to that of the general U.S. population—one in five.
Some groups of Veterans, however, have higher rates of tobacco use, including those with:
- Psychiatric disorders, such as depression or PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder)
- HIV infection
Evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment
VA health care system
Each year, VA provides health care services to 8.76 million of 23 million U.S. Veterans. In order to receive these services, a Veteran must qualify for VA health benefits. Encourage Veterans who are not enrolled in VA health care to find out if they qualify.
VA is the nation's largest integrated health care system with more than 1,700 sites of care, with rural and urban settings. VA delivers its health care through:
- Hospitals and medical centers
- Community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs)
- Telehealth technology
Personalized patient-driven care
VA's goal of providing Veterans with personalized, proactive, patient-driven care is met through evidence-based tobacco cessation programs and resources, including:
- FDA-approved smoking cessation pharmacotherapy
- Patient tools
- 1-855-QUIT-VET, VA's national tobacco cessation quitline
- SmokefreeVET, a text messaging support program for Veterans quitting smoking
- Counseling interventions
Promoting tobacco cessation programs
The Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Tobacco & Health: Policy and Programs communicates, educates, and promotes tobacco cessation programs and resources to both Veterans and VA health care providers.
To communicate with Veterans, we:
- Develop and distribute print materials for patients
- Collaborate with other VHA national program offices and Federal partners to promote tobacco cessation
- Post informative messages and web links onto VA's social media pages
- Publish newsletter articles and blog posts
- Develop national communication campaigns around events such as the Great American Smokeout
To educate VA providers, we:
- Serve as the lead VHA program to develop clinical policy to increase Veterans' access to evidence-based tobacco cessation care
- Create evidence-based clinical resources, including treatment manuals and fact sheets
- Distribute clinical and educational resources through local smoking cessation lead clinicians
- Organize a bi-monthly audio conference series on tobacco cessation, which offers continuing education credits to VA providers
- Distribute a monthly tobacco cessation email newsletter to the VA clinician community
- Provide site consultations and local trainings through the Tobacco Cessation Clinical Resource Center
- Maintain websites for VA providers
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). BRFSS Prevalence and Trends Data: Tobacco Use - Four Level Smoking Data for 1995-2010. Accessed at https://data.cdc.gov/Smoking-Tobacco-Use/BRFSS-Prevalence-and-Trends-Data-Tobacco-Use-Four-/8zak-ewtm
- Department of Veterans Affairs (2012). 2011 Survey of Veteran Enrollees' Health and Reliance Upon VA: With Selected Comparison to the 1999-2010 Surveys. Accessed at http://www.va.gov/HEALTHPOLICYPLANNING/SOE2011/SoE2011_Report.pdf
- Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Health Administration. Accessed at http://www.va.gov/health/aboutVHA.asp
- Department of Veterans Affairs. National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Accessed at http://www.va.gov/vetdata/index.asp
- Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans Health Administration. Accessed at http://www.va.gov/health/