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Substance Use and Tobacco

An older couple out for a walk.

For some people, smoking and drinking alcohol go together. In fact, approximately 70% of people with a substance addiction use tobacco products. This trend is seen among both Veterans and the general public.

Smoking worsens your health

Smoking is a greater risk to your health than using drugs or alcohol. Health effects caused by smoking, like heart disease and lung cancer, are more likely to cause death than drug or alcohol abuse.

Smoking and using alcohol together put you at high risk for:

  • Mouth or oral cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Heart disease

Quitting smoking may make it easier to stop using drugs and alcohol

In the past, some addiction counselors and providers were mistakenly taught that encouraging patients to smoke would help them overcome their other addictions.

The opposite is true—scientific studies have shown that quitting smoking will increase the chance that you can also successfully stop abusing alcohol and other drugs.

People who quit smoking in recovery are less likely to relapse to alcohol or other drug use. Learn about other benefits of quitting tobacco.

VA can help

Talk to your addiction counselor or health care provider about quitting smoking. You can quit smoking at the same time you are quitting another substance, or, if you are worried that quitting smoking might interfere with your recovery, then wait until you feel ready to try to quit smoking.

If you do not attend a substance use clinic or your addiction counselor is not able to counsel you, your regular health care provider can help. He or she can provide you with counseling and medications and refer you to a smoking cessation specialty clinic.

Call 1-855-QUIT-VET, VA's smoking quitline. Counselors at the quitline can provide you with counseling to help you change your habits, and help you develop skills to cope with the stress of quitting.

Learn more about substance use and related VA services.