Mark Twain once said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times." Quitting smoking is actually one of the most difficult things that many will ever do, and even the most motivated smokers may attempt to quit 5 or 6 times before they are finally successful.
To help raise awareness about smoking cessation, the American Cancer Society has scheduled the 28th annual Great American Smokeout for November 17, to encourage smokers to quit for a day in hopes that some will quit for a lifetime. Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Veterans are disproportionately affected by smoking-related illnesses, as 34% of all veterans in care are smokers, compared with 23% of the general population.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) encourages its employees and the veterans we serve to observe the Great American Smokeout that they would like to quit, and knowing more about what works to help them quit may be a very good start. While some smokers think they have to quit "cold turkey," it’s important to know that using nicotine replacement medications such as the patch or gum may help double or triple the likelihood that an attempt to quit will be successful.
Treatment and prevention of smoking-related illnesses is a priority for the VA. To increase veterans’ access to assistance with cessation of smoking and tobacco use, this year the VA eliminated the co-payment for outpatient smoking cessation services for all veterans in care. In addition, veterans have access to highly effective smoking cessation medications such as the nicotine patch or gum through VA pharmacies, so many more VA providers can make smoking cessation counseling and treatment a routine part of care for their patients who smoke. The VA also has developed programs to train mental health professionals on how to integrate smoking cessation into routine mental health care for their patients, as individuals with psychiatric disorders are at a much higher risk for smoking-related illnesses.