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2.9. Tobacco Use
There is a long history of smoking and tobacco use in the military. If you are a Veteran who uses tobacco, there is a good chance you started during your military service.
- Used tobacco more during deployment
- Face difficulties adjusting to a non-tobacco culture when returning home from deployment
- Find themselves around other Veterans who use tobacco
- Have turned to VA to help them successfully quit tobacco
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 truescientific 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
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.
Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for many health problems in Veterans and those who breathe in secondhand smoke.
Learn more about harmful ingredients in tobacco from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco. While nicotine itself does not cause cancer, the body can become addicted to it, causing physical cravings.
Increased risk of cancer
Tobacco use increases your risk of many types of cancer. While many people associate tobacco use with lung cancer, this is just one type of cancer it causes. Tobacco use and exposure to cigarette smoke can also result in:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cancers in the throat region, mouth, voice box, and esophagus
- Kidney cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Cancers of the blood, like acute myeloid leukemia
- Bladder cancer
Women who smoke have almost 18 times the risk of dying of lung cancer compared to women who don't smoke. Learn more about women and smoking.
Tobacco worsens other health conditions
- Smoking can make mental health conditions worse. Learn how smoking affects your mental health.
- Quitting tobacco may actually make it easier to stop using drugs and alcohol. Learn about substance use and tobacco.
- If you have HIV and use tobacco, tobacco can make your HIV worse. Learn how smoking affects your HIV.
As you take this huge step in improving your health and life, VA is there for you.
Veterans enrolled in VA health care have access to:
- Medication and counseling
- 1-855-QUIT VET (1-855-784-8838), VA's smoking quitline
- Text message support from SmokefreeVET
Talk to your VA health care provider to customize a quit strategy.