Veterans, mark your calendars: World No Tobacco Day is May 31.
For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, VA’s Better Starts Today campaign is highlighting some of the mental, emotional and physical health benefits of stopping tobacco use for good. Better Starts Today when you put out the cigarette, ditch the dip or spit out the chew.
Tobacco’s effects on mental health
Stopping tobacco use is probably the single most effective thing you can do to improve your health and quality of life. Throughout this World No Tobacco Day, consider the ways that smoking impacts your mental health in addition to physical health. Smoking can actually reduce the effectiveness of some medications for depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders. And, after a year without tobacco, people who used to smoke report feeling happier and being able to concentrate better.
For those who are being treated for a mental health disorder and/or a substance use disorder, quitting smoking doesn’t jeopardize their recovery or put them at risk for returning to drug or alcohol use. In fact, quitting smoking reduces the risk of relapsing.
A better today without tobacco can mean:
- Improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. For some, benefits may even include a reduced risk for suicide.
- Greater ease in activities like taking a walk, as your breathing and blood circulation improve.
- Decreased chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms or flare-ups as your lung function improves.
You will have more energy, an improved sense of taste and smell, and more money to spend when you are tobacco-free.
Ways to start a tobacco-free life, with VA support
The first steps toward quitting can include picking a quit date, coming up with a quit plan and sharing your reasons for quitting on social media with the hashtag #BetterStartsToday. VA has tools and resources to help you begin this journey. VA medical center clinicians can help you develop a quit plan that may include medications, group classes and individual counseling — in person or by phone. Find your local VA medical center at https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp.
Talk to a counselor.
Quit VET, VA’s tobacco quitline provides tobacco cessation counselors to help you create a quit plan; call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838). Quitline counselors are available between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Counselors offer continued support through follow-up calls and counseling sessions in both English and Spanish.
Receive supportive text messages and advice.
SmokefreeVET is an interactive program that sends three to five texts a day with supportive messages like this: “Feelings can be a trigger. If you feel cranky or grouchy, it is only temporary, so stay strong. How is your mood? Reply: GOOD, OK, or BAD.” This tool also allows you to text keywords like URGE, STRESS, SMOKED, DIPPED and CRISIS anytime to immediately get a tip for coping with an urge or a slip. Text VET to 47848 or visit smokefree.gov/VET to sign up. Text services are available in both English and Spanish.
For more information about tobacco cessation, visit the Tobacco and Health website where you can read about two of VA’s most frequently used resources, Quit VET and SmokefreeVET, and download the Stay Quit Coach app to your smartphone.