You’ve heard it all before—smoking (and even smokeless tobacco use such as dip or vape) is bad for your health. It affects your readiness and can be expensive. It’s dangerous for you and those around you as well. But when you’re up all night on patrol, isolated in the desert with nothing to do, facing combat (or the memories of it), or arguing with your partner, then anything that can take the edge off or help you get your job done feels right. It sometimes seems like almost everyone around you smokes too.
For many Military Service Members, smoking is a part of military life—and it’s often a part of combat deployment. Close to half of all active-duty Military Service Members have used nicotine products, and about 25% of all Military Service Members smoke. Nearly 40% of active-duty Military Service Members who smoke start using tobacco after enlistment as well.
Like many Military Service Members, you’ve probably tried to quit or at least thought about it. And even though there are a lot of reasons you want to quit, there are other reasons you don’t.
You smoke for a reason, and that might have a lot to do with your service. Maybe you smoke to stave off sleep deprivation or boredom. Perhaps you need stress relief or are just trying to fit in. Or maybe you’re addicted. Whatever your reason is, honor it. So when you get real about quitting smoking, you’ll know how to prepare for success.
What are your pros and cons?
If you’re thinking about quitting, you might have made a list of the “pros” (advantages) and “cons” (disadvantages) of not smoking. Often, you’ll hear about the pros of quitting and the cons of smoking, which describe those things that can keep you motivated to quit.
It’s probably easy to make a long list of all the reasons you want to quit: You’ll save money, be healthier and fitter, avoid being a turn-off to others, and positively impact your appearance—just to name a few. And it’s really important to know and capitalize on those things that motivate you to quit.
It’s just as important to know what you’re fighting against too. A strong predictor of quitting is getting real about what you’ll miss about smoking and tackling why you don’t want to quit—in addition to all those reasons you’re ready to kick the habit.
Take a look at some of the most common reasons Military Service Members and civilians continue to smoke. What sounds familiar to you?
Why you smoke
- It helps you cope with boredom, stress, and anxiety.
- Smoking is a habit that makes you feel comfortable and more like yourself.
- It helps you stay awake.
- Smoking helps you relax.
- You feel like you “fit in” with your unit.
- When you’re in combat, the negative health effects don’t seem so serious.
Why you don’t want to quit
- You’re dependent or want to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Smoking is something to do.
- You like to smoke.
- You have concerns about weight gain.
- Habits take energy to break.
These are all very real and powerful reasons you might find it hard to quit smoking. Think about your reasons for smoking and why you want to quit. Look at the graphic above and try to make your own list of the pros of quitting, cons of smoking, why you smoke, and why you don’t want to quit.
Once you know your pros and cons, ask yourself some important questions. Is running in PT without coughing or being out of breath worth quitting smoking? Can you find a new way to de-stress? If you’re a pack-a-day smoker, is saving over $2,000 a year worth going through a few weeks of nicotine withdrawal? If you answer “yes,” what happens next?
- For evidence-based information and professional help, visit Smokefree.gov and the YouCanQuit2 website.
- Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Tobacco and Health page to learn how tobacco affects your health and what you can do to quit.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several resources on developing and sticking to a quit plan. Check out CDC resources for the military community. Or hear real stories from Military Service Members and Vets through CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers® campaign.
- Tricare’s Tobacco Cessation page offers resources that Military Service Members can easily access to help quit tobacco.
- Explore the different branch resources:
- To speak with a VA Quit Vet Counselor, call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838). Or visit the Smoking Quitline.
- Sign up for SmokefreeVET’s text message program to get daily support, advice, and encouragement. Or text the word VET (for Veterans) to 47848 to receive text messages.
- Get live, online assistance from the National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp chat support.
- Download VA Mobile’s Stay Quit Coach for resources right at your fingertips—whenever you need them.
- Track your cravings, find out about your smoking patterns, and learn tips to quit with smokefree.gov’s QuitGuide app.
- Don’t consider vaping as an alternative, with or without tobacco. To learn more about the risks, read HPRC’s article about vaping.
Quitting smoking won’t be easy, but it can help if you feel prepared and supported. In fact, knowing why you want to quit and seeking support can help you commit to quitting for good.