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Tobacco Use Widespread Among Veterans

April 24, 2020

US veterans use tobacco at significantly higher rates than the general population, according to a study published online in Preventive Medicine Reports. In younger veterans, use of cigarette and noncigarette tobacco products is especially prevalent.

“The current study found that nearly half (47.7%) of veterans who served during September 2001 or later reported past 30-day use of any tobacco product,” researchers wrote. “Veterans who reported continued tobacco use over time had higher odds of comorbid conditions (poor physical health, poor mental health, other substance use, and problematic alcohol use) compared to those who did not report continued use of tobacco products. This co-occurrence may indicate veterans are using tobacco and other substances to cope with physical and mental ailments.” 

Researchers analyzed data from the nationally representative Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health survey, which collects information on the use of seven types of tobacco products, including cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco, and dissolvable tobacco. To identify predictors of tobacco use transitions over time, they compared data from two periods: Wave 1 (2013–2014) and Wave 2 (2014–2015). 

Veterans who continued to use tobacco through Wave 2 were more likely to be younger, male, have poorer physical health, have poorer mental health, report substance use, and report problematic alcohol use compared with veterans who discontinued tobacco use, the study found. 

Veterans who initiated tobacco use between survey waves were more likely to report problematic alcohol use compared with continued nonusers, according to the study. Meanwhile, veterans who transitioned from any use to no use were more likely to be younger compared with continued nonusers.  

Tobacco use was highest among veterans who had served in the Marines, followed by the Army, Navy, and then Air Force. Military deployment and combat exposure may play a role in prevalence differences between the branches, researchers reasoned. They also noted the Air Force restricts tobacco companies from advertising in military publications. 

Nevertheless, the current study paints a clear picture of cigarette and noncigarette tobacco use as a sustained health threat to US veterans, especially those who are of younger age,” researchers wrote. “Veterans who are continued users of tobacco have higher odds of other comorbid conditions, which should be taken into account when considering tobacco treatment options.” 

Jolynn Tumolo


Cooper M, Yaqub M, Hinds JT, Perry CL. A longitudinal analysis of tobacco use in younger and older U.S. veterans. Prev Med Rep. 2019;16:100990. Published 2019 Oct 25. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100990

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