Each year, VA teams up with the American Cancer Society to support the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday in November. This year, Nov.  21 is the day to encourage Veterans to try, at least for the day, to quit smoking, in the hopes that they can quit for a lifetime.

As a group, women Veterans are more likely to smoke than their civilian counterparts and an estimated 174,000 women die from smoking and secondhand smoke each year in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancerous deaths in the United States.

No matter how old you are, quitting smoking is the most effective way to improve your health. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers have a shorter life – on average, smokers die 13 to 15 years earlier than non-smokers – and they have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Smokers are also more likely to develop certain serious health conditions. For example, the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke increases by 2 to 4 times; the risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases increases 12 to 13 times; the risk a woman will develop lung cancer is increased by 13 times; and both infertility and pregnancy complications are increased.

You can also stop hurting the health of those you love by quitting smoking. More than 50,000 Americans die each year as a result of breathing other people’s smoke. According to U.S. Surgeon General Reports from 2006, 2007 and 2010, secondhand smoke causes early death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke. Non-smoking spouses of smokers are also more likely to have heart disease or lung cancer than if they were not exposed to smoke in the home.

There are many immediate and long-term benefits to quitting. For example, as soon as two days after quitting, the sense of taste and smell improves. After three months, the former smoker’s heart attack risk drops and lung function improves. After one year, the risk of heart disease drops by half. After 10 years, the lung cancer death rate drops to half of that of a smoker. And after 15 years, risk of heart disease is the same as a nonsmoker’s.

More than 3 million Americans quit smoking every year. You can join their ranks today!

To help Veterans quit smoking, VA offers:

  • Screening and brief counseling in primary care,
  • Individual counseling,
  • Prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy, such as a nicotine patch or gum, or other medications, and
  • Participation in evidence-based smoking cessation programs.

Veterans can contact the nearest VA health care facility to schedule an appointment. You can find an extensive list of resources here (Will link to Resources section of the website when live). Quit smoking today for a healthy tomorrow.

Sally Haskell, MD, is the deputy chief consultant for VA’s national Women’s Health Services office and the director of comprehensive women’s health. In her roles, Sally advocates for the delivery of VA health care services for more than 360,000 women Veteran health care users.

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Published on Nov. 20, 2013

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