Military Marches Forward to Curb Tobacco Use

In National News on April 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm

The facts are: rates of smoking in the military are higher than in the civilian population; smoking rates are even higher among military personnel who have been deployed; and an increasing number of service members use smokeless tobacco products. In light of this, the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are working to increase cessation among their constituents.

A June 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the DoD titled, “Combating Tobacco Use in Military and Veteran Populations,” includes recommendations for the DoD and VA to make progress toward a tobacco-free military.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has launched an online interactive tobacco cessation program — Quit Tobacco, Make Everyone Proud.   The program provides users the opportunity to submit questions to tobacco cessation counselors in real time; computer games to distract from tobacco cravings; and short videos and audio podcasts — quitcasts and spitcasts — in which service members share testimonials and advice.

A military-specific tobacco quitline is being tested in an NIH-sponsored clinical trial.  The principal investigator for the trial, Dr. Robert Klesges of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says, “A tobacco quitline or a tailored Internet program, military personnel can use anytime day or night. So a lot of what we are doing is tailoring these cessation tools to the intense job demands associated with the military,” He further noted, “We enforce weight standards, why wouldn’t we enforce tobacco-free standards?”

All VA medical centers have tobacco cessation specialty clinics that provide free counseling and FDA-approved smoking cessation medications, including over-the-counter medications.  Veterans seen in primary care and outpatient mental health clinics are screened for tobacco use at least once a year. Providers offer brief cessation counseling to current tobacco users, as well as prescriptions for FDA-approved medications and referrals to more intensive counseling to assist veterans with quitting.


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