Quitting Smoking Priorities for Veterans

Smoking cessation efforts for veterans with mental illness should increase

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Veterans with a physical illness or injury are more likely to be told, ‘it’s time to quit smoking,’ than veterans with mental health disorders. All veterans need help to quit smoking. 

A recent study crunched the numbers of veterans who smoked. Those with mental health disorders were not being told to quit smoking as often as other veterans.

"Define a plan to quit today!"

A team of researchers led by Sonia A. Duffy, PhD, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, at the Serious Mental Illness Treatment Resource and Evaluation Center at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research, set out to investigate whether veterans with mental health disorders were getting the same help as other veterans with regard to quitting smoking.

The research team looked at the 2007 Veterans Health Administration Outpatient Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Patients filled out by 224,193 veterans, looking for a mental health diagnosis.  They compared the patients with a mental health diagnosis to the other smokers and health care provider recommendations to quit smoking.

Veterans without mental health disorders had a 15.9 percent smoking rate, while those with mental health disorders had a 27.1 to 47.7 percent smoking rate. Schizophrenic and bipolar patients ranked on the high end of the smoking rate.

Doctors advised 60 to 80 percent of the patients with mental illness quit smoking, but patients with severe mental illnesses were less likely to get the same advice. 

Patients with schizophrenia were 30 percent less likely than patients without any mental illness to be advised by their doctors to quit smoking.

Study authors stated, “... those who had co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder or substance use disorders had significantly greater odds of reporting that they received advice to quit, recommendations for medications, and physician discussions of quitting methods, compared with those without these disorders.”

Authors hope that this information will encourage Veterans Affairs health care professionals to increase their efforts to help veterans of every diagnosis quit smoking.

"Several programs are currently being implemented in the VA to assist veterans with smoking cessation, including telephone counseling implementation of a nurse-administered Tobacco Tactics intervention for all inpatient smokers, and smoking cessation treatment integrated with mental health care for PTSD delivered by mental health clinicians"

This study was published in Psychiatric Services, April 2012. No financial information was given. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 26, 2012
Last Updated:
June 28, 2012