Tobacco Use Among U.S. Veterans is Nearly Double the National Average; Legislation Could Help Lessen Health Burden

January 11, 2018

Washington, D.C.,—Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing tobacco use by military veterans is nearly double the national average. The data, collected from 2010-2015 and published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows nearly 30 percent of veterans use some kind of tobacco. The national average is 15 percent, according to the CDC.

Among veterans who use tobacco, the survey showed most smoked cigarettes followed by cigars, smokeless tobacco, roll-your-own and pipes.

A statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

“The new figures released today illustrate the urgent need to help our veterans quit tobacco use and encourage a healthy tobacco-free environment for all those who have served our country.

“With three in ten veterans using tobacco regularly, this community faces a disproportionate and unacceptable burden with an increased risk for lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. One proven way to help reduce that burden is through implementation of comprehensive smoke-free environments. A bill (H.R. 1848  and S.2119 ) making all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities smoke-free passed the House last spring.  We urge the Senate to pass its bill (S. 2119) as soon as possible.

“Eliminating secondhand smoke from all VHA facilities would ensure sick and disabled veterans are no longer subjected to the dangers of secondhand smoke while receiving medical care and would provide a more supportive environment for veterans who are trying to quit tobacco use to do so successfully.

“Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, and the U.S. Surgeon General has determined there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are linked to cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.

“We have an obligation to better care for these individuals who have sacrificed their lives to protect and defend Americans. As a nation we must do more to improve and protect the health of our veterans, especially from the dangers of tobacco use. Providing a smoke-free VHA system is an important step in the right direction.” 

Media Contacts

Allison Miller
Director, Media Advocacy
Washington, D.C.