1. Health

Smoking in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans


Updated October 29, 2008

Many people across the United States smoke, and as we become more aware of its effect on our physical health, many people are also becoming more motivated to quit.

One group of people that have been found to have high rates of smoking are veterans, especially those with a diagnosis of PTSD. In fact, if you have PTSD and smoke, it's important to know that you are not alone. Nearly one half of people with a current diagnosis of PTSD smoke, and it has been found that Vietnam veterans with PTSD in particular smoke at even higher rates. However, less is known about smoking among veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Smoking in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans

To look at this, a group of researchers from the Durham VA Medical Center and Duke University surveyed returning veterans on their smoking habits, as well as symptoms of depression and PTSD.

They found that about one third of the veterans were current smokers, a rate higher than what is seen across the United States in general. Their smoking, however, wasn't really linked to their PTSD symptoms. Instead, the veterans who smoked were more likely to be depressed than non-smokers.

Fortunately though, despite these high rates of smoking, many were motivated to quit. In fact, one half of the smokers said they were intending to quit in the next 6 months.

Getting Help

Many people are aware of how difficult it can be to quit smoking. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help you quit smoking and improve their health.

You may also be wondering if there are any specialized techniques for quitting smoking if you have PTSD. Yes, there is - these techniques focus on understanding how smoking may stem from or be used to alleviate PTSD symptoms. In addition, even if you have PTSD, you can still benefit from more standard methods of quitting smoking. However, keep in mind that PTSD can interfere with quit attempts. Therefore, if you have PTSD and are trying to quit smoking, it may be important to seek additional treatment for your PTSD symptoms. You can find out more information about treatment providers in your area who might offer therapy for people with PTSD through UCompare HealthCare from About.com.


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Beckham, J.C., Kirby, A.C., Feldman, M., Hertzberg, M.A., Moore, S., Crawford, A.L. et al. (1997). Prevalence and correlates of heavy smoking in Vietnam veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Addictive Behaviors, 22, 637-647.

Beckham, J.C., Lytle, B.L., Vrana, S.R., Hertzberg, M.A., Feldman, M.E., & Shipley, R. (1996). Smoking withdrawal symptoms in response to a trauma-related stressor among Vietnam combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Addictive Behaviors, 21, 93-101.

Beckham, J.C., Roodman, A.A., Shipley, R.H., Hertzberg, M.A., Cunha, G.H., Kudler, H.S., et al. (1995). Smoking in Vietnam combat veteras with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 467-472

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Fact sheet: Adult cigarette smoking in the United States: Current estimates. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Feldner, M.T., Babson, K.A., & Zvolensky, M.J. (2007). Smoking, traumatic event exposure, and post-traumatic stress: A critical review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 14-45.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2004). The health consequences of smoking: A report of the Surgeon General. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease and Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

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