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It’s never too late to quit smoking and start breathing easier

Great American Smokeout 2023

When you stop smoking, you feel the benefits almost immediately, no matter how long you’ve smoked.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to quit, this year’s Great American Smokeout on November 16 is a great opportunity. VA is here to support you along your quit journey — from planning before you quit to finding long-term solutions so you can start breathing easier.

Quitting any day can help you every day

Whether you’re 18 or 81, you feel the benefits of quitting tobacco almost right away, and the benefits continue to build over time. A year after quitting, your risk of heart attack drops sharply. Within two to five years, your risk of stroke decreases and may match that of someone who does not smoke. Five to 10 years after you quit smoking, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, lungs and bladder is cut in half.

Smoking also puts you at greater risk for the common cold, the flu and pneumonia. People who smoke get respiratory illnesses more frequently and are more likely to need hospitalization if they become sick. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the best thing you can do for your health is stop smoking. Quitting also makes it easier to manage the condition.

When you’re ready to take the first step, VA can help you develop a quit plan and provide you with support to stick to it. Even if you’ve tried quitting before, your VA provider can help you try a new therapy or combination of treatments that may work for you.

It’s never too late to toss tobacco. So, what are you waiting for?

The truth is that any time is the right time to quit smoking. If you’re a Veteran interested in quitting tobacco, you have many options:

  • 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 VA Video Connect, VA’s secure videoconferencing app. You can use My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal, to send your VA provider a secure message to learn more about your options.
    • The Minneapolis VA has options for face to face counseling as well as an 8-session weekly Online Veterans Tobacco Cessation Group Wednesdays at 10am. This group is led by a psychologist, peer support specialist, pharmacist, and other health care professionals to help you quit smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco. There is an optional hypnosis for stress management and coping that can be considered.  For help quitting, call your provider at 612-467-1100 or contact through My HealtheVet’s Secure Messaging.
  • Medications: VA offers prescription medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as nicotine replacement therapy like the nicotine 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 with 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 and 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 on the SmokefreeVET website.

National Lung Cancer Screening and American Great Smokeout Prevention and Awareness Day will be held at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center on Thursday, November 16, 2023. Please stop by our table by the Main Entrance with the inflatable lungs to learn about lung cancer screening and smoking cessation.

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