Due to some technical difficulties, we’re reposting some old posts.
Veteran’s Day honors all those who served. Today we’re providing information on tobacco for those who want to support a veteran in their life. We’re starting with the history on military because nearly 40% of those who smoke began after they enlisted. Deployment also increases the chances that someone starts smoking more than just enlisting.1
Tobacco products contain nicotine, which makes them addictive. Meaning: someone who uses a tobacco product while in the military may still be using after they leave.
For veteran’s: a 2021 survey noted that 12.9% of veteran’s enrolled in the Veteran Administration healthcare system are current smokers. About 41.9% of veteran’s enrolled in the VA’s healthcare system are former smokers. 2
Tobacco Marketing and the Military1,3
- Military distributed tobacco products during both World Wars, Vietnam, and the Korean War
- The Department of Defense stopped this practice in 1990 (Gulf War). Tobacco companies responded with sending free cigarettes directly to soldiers and when they returned from duty.
- Shortly after the Iraq invasion in 2003, tobacco companies sent deployed Marines smokeless tobacco
- In 2009, Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, which prohibits free distribution of cigarettes and restricts the distribution of free smokeless tobacco
- Military wives were targeted in the 1980s and 1990s via tactics like providing cigarette coupons and prizes and sponsoring bingo nights on base
- There are soldiers who believe that one needed to leave the Army or be motivated to quit to successfully quit because of how frequently tobacco is used by other soldiers and how available it is.
- Junior enlisted personnel believed that smoking was still very convenient despite bans on tobacco. They also believed it was encouraged due to smoking breaks, designated smoking areas, and cheap tobacco products.
- Tobacco products were allowed to be sold at discounted rates on military bases until 2017. A study reported that the mean discount rate was 25% off, with discounts up to 73% off, at military bases.
Note: these are health impacts outside what you may hear regularly, like lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.
- Military physical training tests show that those who smoke have lower physical performance capacity than those who do not smoke.
- Smoking has been linked to slower adaptation to darkness and lower visual perception in dim lighting. It can accelerate hearing loss as well.
- Higher risk of injury compared to those who do not smoke.
- Those who smoke, including military members, miss more days of work due to illness as well as more likely to be hospitalized.
Other Health Impacts
- Smoking can impact wounds by:
- Increasing how long it takes them to heal
- Increase the chance the wound will become infected
- Decrease the strength of scar tissue
- Decrease the chance of a successful skin graft
- Causing blood clots to form near wounds
- Smoking can worsen feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also interfere with medications that help those feelings. People who quit have reported improved mental health.
- Science: nicotine temporarily releases dopamine and withdrawal symptoms can mimic stress and anxiety. Using tobacco again will relieve those symptoms, but it is a temporary process for releasing dopamine. Nicotine also initiates the fight-or-flight response, which can increase stress over the long run.
- Cravings for nicotine can impact cravings for other drugs. This can impact recovery if you choose to continue smoking while trying to quit another drug.
- Pregnancy and other fertility impacts linked to tobacco use and secondhand smoke:
- Issues with male fertility and erectile dysfunction
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Miscarriage/still birth
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Ectopic pregnancy
General and Veteran’s Resources
- Smokefree Vets: tips and tools for quitting. Text VET to 47848 for help.
- If you use smokeless tobacco, text SPIT to 222888.
- VA National Quitline: 1-855-QUIT-VET
- Alaska State Quitline: call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or text 200-400 for help.
- Freedom From Smoking
Currently Serving? Some branches have programs to help you quit. You may also use any from above.
- You Can Quit2: Educational campaign and resources for quitting developed by the Department of Defense
- Tricare Coverage
- Coast Guard
- Marine Corps
- Having thoughts of suicide or need other support? Contact the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 988.
- Check how much you’re spending on cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and/or e-cigarettes at Savings Calculator – You Can Quit 2 (ycq2.org).
Concerned about Smoking at Your Residence?
- Contact the American Lung Association at SmokefreHousingAK@Lung.Org. We can help address concerns, including those at military housing!
- Tobacco use in the military (truthinitiative.org)
- Living Tobacco Free: A Toolkit for Military and Veteran Family Caregivers. Developed by Easterseals and CVS Health Foundation in Collaboration with the American Lung Association
- Tobacco & Socioeconomic Status (tobaccofreekids.org)
- pdf (truthinitiative.org)
- 4 ways smoking impacts national military readiness (truthinitiative.org)
- Learn More – Mental Health (va.gov)
- Smoking and the Management of Chronic Health Conditions | Smokefree Veterans