Stamping out your last cigarette isn’t easy, but VA has tools and expertise to help. Join us for the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 19 and learn how VA can help you make this amazing improvement to your health by stopping tobacco use – for good.
One reason it’s so difficult to stop smoking is that, “just like unlearning to ride a bike, it is incredibly hard to unlearn that simple, mildly rewarding behavior of lighting up a cigarette,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
That’s why, in addition to medications to help curb your cravings and mobile phone apps to provide motivation, VA offers one of the most effective methods for quitting tobacco: cessation counseling.
Counseling: What to expect
VA’s tobacco cessation counselors typically discuss activities or situations that trigger someone who smokes to light up, such as talking on the phone, drinking coffee or alcohol, or feeling bored or stressed out. Counseling usually includes developing strategies for coping with those triggers and making the long-term behavioral changes needed to stop smoking.
Counselors may also recommend nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescribe medication to help relieve the symptoms that come with nicotine withdrawal. Experts say a combination of approaches that includes cessation counseling usually works best. For example, research shows that combining counseling and medication works better than medication or counseling alone.
Cessation support designed for Veterans
VA provides a wide range of information and support services for Veterans who wish to stop using tobacco, including:
- Counseling: When combined with another cessation tool, such as medication or NRT products, counseling offers Veterans the best chance of becoming and staying tobacco-free. VA offers group and individual counseling to talk about everyday tobacco use, triggers, and lifestyle changes that can help Veterans forget tobacco. Tobacco cessation counseling is routinely provided through VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics.
- Medications and NRT: VA offers FDA-approved prescription medications as well as NRT gum, patches, and lozenges to help with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings that come with quitting. Your VA provider can guide you through the available options and help you decide which one is likely to work best for you.
- Quit VET: Veterans can call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to receive tobacco cessation counseling and get help building their plan to quit. Quitline counselors are available Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time, to help Veterans prepare for potential challenges and avoid relapse, and to offer continued support through follow-up calls and counseling. Counseling is available in English or Spanish.
- SmokefreeVET: For tools and tips you can use to quit smoking, Veterans can sign up for SmokefreeVET by texting VET to 47848. SmokefreeVET provides regular text messages as well as extra support at Veterans’ fingertips when they text the keywords URGE, STRESS or SMOKED to 47848. Para inscribirse en SmokefreeVET en español, manda el texto VETesp al 47848.
Talk with your provider about which of VA’s tobacco cessation options may best meet your needs and consider quitting for the Great American Smokeout.
Kim Hamlett-Berry is the national program director for Tobacco & Health: Policy and Programs, VHA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.