For the Great American Smokeout on November 17, explore the many ways VA can make it easier than ever to stop smoking.
Clearing the air about smoking
Smoking has a way of clouding nearly everything in a person’s life. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can help Veterans clear the air with text, phone and in-person support and counseling, as well as prescription medications and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products to help them stop smoking. VA has more ways than ever to help Veterans make smoking a thing of the past and improve their health and quality of life.
Clear the air about health
Many people who smoke say they do so in an attempt to cope with stress. And they might not stop smoking because they worry that quitting will only add to that stress and harm their mental health. However, research has found the opposite to be true: Stopping tobacco use can actually improve your mood and decrease your feelings of depression and anxiety. It also can make certain medications for depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders work better.
In reality, the stress relief that people feel when they smoke is only relief from nicotine withdrawal. When they smoke, the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal go away, but relieving those symptoms isn’t the same as reducing stress. In fact, getting out of that nicotine-seeking cycle is what actually lowers stress.
If you smoke, you likely know that it can harm almost every organ in the body, including the brain. You may not know that it can also harm the health of the nonsmoking people — and even the pets — around you. Secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths in the United States each year and many serious health problems. When you stop smoking, the people around you are likely to have better lung function and a lower risk for heart and respiratory diseases.
Clear the air to see a better life
After you stop smoking, better mental and physical health — for you and the people around you — are the foundations of an improved quality of life, but you’ll also experience many direct lifestyle benefits. For example, when you stop smoking, you’ll sleep better and feel an energy boost that will enable you to spend more time doing the things you enjoy. And you won’t miss important events or special moments when you have to go outside to smoke. You’ll also have more time and money to devote to the people, causes and activities that are meaningful to you.
VA helps Veterans clear the air
VA has many treatment options to make it easier to stop smoking. Because each method addresses a different aspect of smoking, a combination of more than one method can be very effective. The best treatment is the one that works for you, but research has shown that combining counseling with medication (such as NRT gum, patches, lozenges and other products) is the most effective for remaining tobacco-free over the long term. All VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics offer tobacco use treatment options, including:
- Counseling: VA offers group and individual counseling to talk about everyday tobacco use, triggers for smoking, and lifestyle changes that can help Veterans quit smoking. Counseling is available in person or through the VA Video Connect secure videoconferencing app. You may use My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal, to send your provider a secure message to learn more about your options.
- Medications and NRT: VA offers prescription medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration as well as NRT gum, patches and lozenges to help relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings that come with stopping tobacco use. Your provider can guide you through the available options and help you decide which one (or combination) is likely to work best for you.
- Quit VET: Veterans can call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) for counseling and help in developing a plan to stop smoking. Quitline counselors are available Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time, to help you prepare for potential challenges and avoid relapse. Counselors offer continued support in English or Spanish through follow-up calls and counseling sessions.
- SmokefreeVET: For tools and tips you can use to quit smoking, sign up for SmokefreeVET by texting VET to 47848. SmokefreeVET provides regular text messages as well as extra support for Veterans who text the keywords URGE, STRESS or SMOKED to 47848. Para inscribirse en SmokefreeVET en español, manda el texto VETesp al 47848. Learn more at the SmokefreeVET website.
It’s not easy to stop smoking, but VA has a range of evidence-based treatments that have led countless Veterans to long-term success. When you’re ready to clear the air, talk with your VA provider or use the facility locator tool to find VA support near you.