Many veterans started smoking and using tobacco while they were in the military, but almost half of all veterans are now former smokers. It’s not easy to quit smoking, but it’s worth it.

Tobacco kills up to half of its users. But tobacco doesn’t only hurt the person who smokes. Nearly 900,000 non-smokers die as the result of being exposed to secondhand smoke, and the 7 million tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your health and the lives of the ones you love — and it’s never too late. Every year on May 31, WHO marks World No Tobacco Day by highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

BlueStar - no tobaccoSeven out of every 10 people who smoke say they want to quit, and research shows that a person has the best chance of quitting tobacco for good when they have a plan. If you’re ready to quit smoking, the VA has resources available to make sure you succeed.

The first step is to make a “Quit Plan.” Set a quit date; tell your family and friends; and remove all cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters from your home before you quit.

It won’t be easy, so anticipate and plan for challenges. The VA has partnered with the National Cancer Institute to offer SmokefreeVET, a mobile text messaging service for military veterans who receive their health care through VA.

SmokefreeVET is a six- to eight-week program that sends users between one and five messages with support, advice and tips to help them quit smoking. To sign up, simply text the word “Vet” to IQUIT (47848) from your mobile phone. After answering a few questions, you will start receiving messages. You can also sign up online.  

You are more likely to be successful in quitting if you have support from the people who love and care about you. If you are learning how to quit, let your family and friends know what they can do to help.

In addition to enlisting the support of loved ones, talk to your doctor. Your health care provider can prescribe smoking cessation medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration and connect you with a tobacco cessation counseling program to help you build smoke-free habits. Veterans who use nicotine replacement therapy and counseling more than double the chance that they will succeed.

This World No Tobacco Day, call 1-855-QUIT-VET (784-8838) to speak with a tobacco cessation counselor, and talk to your VA health care provider to customize a quitting strategy. You have the power to quit smoking and stay free.

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