U.S. veterans used tobacco products at a much higher rate than non-veterans from 2011 to 2015, according to last week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the case for males and females of all age groups, except males 50 and older.
The CDC used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to assess tobacco product use within the past 30 days by veterans and non-veterans. Among veterans, 21.6 percent smoked cigarettes, 6.2 percent smoked cigars, 5.2 percent used smokeless tobacco, 3.0 percent used roll-your-own tobacco, and 1.5 percent smoked pipes. Tobacco use among veterans was highest in those:
- Without health insurance (60.1 percent)
- Living in poverty (53.7 percent)
- Ages 18–25 years (56.8 percent)
- In severe psychological distress (48.2 percent)
- With an annual family income of less than $20,000 (44.3 percent)
- Without at least a high school diploma (37.9 percent)
More than one-third of active duty military personnel who smoke started smoking after enlisting, so evidence-based tobacco control interventions could help reduce tobacco use among veterans, according to the CDC. These measures could include smoking cessation programs for military personnel and veterans, implementing tobacco-free policies on military bases and in Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics, raising the age requirement to purchase tobacco products on military bases to 21, and eliminating discounts for tobacco products through military retailers.