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Combating Tobacco Use in Military and Veteran Populations
current programs under engaged leadership and cleardirection.
VA can play a valuable role in motivating veterans to quit tobacco use by offering relevant information and treatment options. Increasing veterans’ interest in and willingness to quit tobacco use requires that veterans and their families be educated about the harmful effects of tobacco and about the treatment options available to them. It also requires that health-care providers be available to provide services when veterans seek assistance. This section summarizes methods of communicating that information.
Tobacco advertising and promotions are not allowed at any VA facility or in any VA newsletter or Web site, but veterans live in the civilian population and as part of the general public are exposed to tobacco advertising. VA can counter such advertising by providing educational materials to veterans enrolled in VA health services. The committee was unable to identify any antitobacco mass-media campaigns in the VHA health-care system. It has, however, occasionally run articles about veterans who have stopped smoking or about VA tobacco-cessation programs in its online and print versions of veterans-health newsletters. For example, the summer 2008 edition of Veterans’ Health:The Wellness Magazine for Ohio Veterans, from the VA Healthcare System of Ohio, featured a 71-year-old veteran who had graduated from the Ohio VA’s tobacco-cessation program. The article profiled his tobacco-cessation attempts and success. It emphasized that although quitting tobacco is not easy, it is beneficial to one’s health at any age, and professional help is available for all veterans who want to quit. Many VISNs have online newsletters that contain information and stories that promote VA tobacco-cessation programs.
VA has several Web sites that assist veterans in obtaining health information, such as My HealtheVet (www.myhealth.va.gov), which includes smoking and tobacco cessation as one of the featured programs under the healthy living centers section; however, it does not include tobacco use as a vital sign. Highlighting tobacco cessation on VA Web sites could motivate veterans to consider quitting and to help those who are already interested in quitting get information more easily. There are also Web sites for specific VA health-care facilities with information on tobacco cessation, but the pages are not easily accessed through the VA home page and require the user to search for individual medical facilities. For example, the Web site for the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, outlines how its smoking-cessation program