Veterans groups miss opportunities to curb tobacco use

October 31, 2013 by Stephanie Stephens
Veterans groups miss opportunities to curb tobacco use

Studies have shown that U.S. military veterans smoke at a higher rate than civilians. Websites targeting veterans, however, fail to provide information about the risks of tobacco products and how to quit smoking, finds a new report in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

"The military, which is its own subculture, still has one of the highest rates of tobacco use of any occupational group, both and smokeless," said lead study author Walker S. Carlos Poston, Ph.D., M.P.H. at the Institute for Biobehavioral Health Research of the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.

Veterans service organizations (VSO) should provide more online support for , the authors said, because " who smoke are less likely to quit, they have been specifically targeted by the tobacco industry, and there is evidence that the military still provides a supportive atmosphere for tobacco use and initiation, such as substantially discounted cigarettes for active military and eligible veterans and retirees and the lack of consistent enforcement."

Researchers evaluated websites for veteran service organizations such as the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, all of which differ substantially in the range of veterans they serve. They found 277 topics addressed on 24 websites, the top five of which were insurance issues, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), disability and amputation, Agent Orange, and traumatic brain injury.

"Tobacco-related content was virtually nonexistent," they said. Tobacco was mentioned only four times across all 24 websites and smoking cessation was never mentioned.

Tobacco use impacts active military and veterans with smoke-related illnesses like pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and worsens PTSD symptoms. It also negatively impacts family members—due to increased health care costs and caregiver burdens.

The military does offer a free state-of-the-art "quit smoking" program, and a telephone quit line for active duty and veterans, Poston said. "That's good, since smoking costs the military a lot more than other habits, including overeating and resulting problems of overweight and obesity."

The authors suggested a number of concrete ideas to increase VSO awareness and engagement around the topic of tobacco use. For example, providing VSOs with training for smoking cessation peer interventionists for prospective quitters and encouraging VSOs to include smoking cessation materials on their Web sites and provide links to the respective state quit telephone lines and other public domain smoking cessations resources, including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health and the American Legacy Foundation.

"I can't say I'm shocked by the findings. It was both impressive and depressing how little mention there was of tobacco use or smoking cessation on the websites," said Harry A. Lando Ph.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health's Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. "But I would have thought there'd be at least more mention of on the websites."

The military can be a breeding ground for taking up smoking, he said. "It seems it would be very low cost to implement some of the recommendations the authors made, to put some of that information on websites about quitting, or to include other resources."

Explore further: Smartphones, GPS part of UH scientist's smoking cessation research

Related Stories

Smartphones, GPS part of UH scientist's smoking cessation research

October 17, 2013
We use them to text, tweet, post and, sometimes, make a call. Now, smartphones are helping with public health research.

Game on: Tobacco-Free Teens app goes live on iTunes

August 8, 2013
An app to prevent teens from smoking and encourage them to quit if they've started is now just a few taps away and available free on the Apple iTunes Store.

Despite access to care, male veterans in poorer health than civilian men

October 9, 2012
Even with access to health care, male military veterans are in poorer health than men in active military duty, men in the National Guard and Reserves, and civilian men, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive ...

Contraband tobacco use hinders smoking cessation

March 4, 2013
People who smoke low-cost contraband cigarettes in Canada are less likely to stop smoking in the short term compared with people who smoke more expensive premium or discount cigarettes, according to a study published in CMAJ ...

Anti-tobacco TV ads help adults stop smoking, study finds

April 19, 2012
Anti-tobacco television advertising helps reduce adult smoking, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy -- but some ads may be more effective ...

Costly cigarettes and smoke-free homes: Both effectively reduce tobacco consumption

October 17, 2013
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say high-priced cigarettes and smoke-free homes effectively reduce smoking behaviors among low-income individuals – a demographic in which tobacco ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.