Stopping tobacco use can improve mental health and sense of well-being in the same way that it can improve physical health. Just as tobacco use is a major contributor to heart and lung disease, it is associated with depression, stress and anxiety. It can interfere with sleep, make chronic pain worse and slow the healing of injuries.
The good news, however, is that it’s never too late to start enjoying a better quality of life. Once tobacco use ends, much of the damage — physical and mental — can be reduced or even reversed. Use includes smoking, chewing, dipping or otherwise consuming the drug.
For World No Tobacco Day May 31, VA is reminding Veterans that Better Starts Today. For those who quit, benefits to overall health and wellness start within hours.
Quality of life
Research shows that although tobacco use causes significant harm, those effects can be turned around once use ends.
- Sleep disturbances: Tobacco use may cause or increase sleep difficulties. Smokers, for example, are more likely than nonsmokers to report daytime sleepiness and a lack of sleep. Users also are at a higher risk for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Those who quit report needing less time to fall asleep. And they experience increased total sleep time, less interrupted sleep and improved mood and functioning.
- Chronic pain: Nearly 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Those individuals are twice as likely as the general population to smoke. There is evidence that smoking can cause or intensify pain — including back, tooth and gum pain; headache; fibromyalgia; and rheumatoid arthritis. Discontinuing tobacco use may provide some relief.
- Mental health challenges: A recent five-year study found that more than 48% of Veterans with serious psychological distress reported using some form of tobacco. Smoking can increase feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. It can also prevent certain antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications from working as well as they could. Discontinuing tobacco use can result in reduced levels of depression. It can improve mood and can even make it easier to stop using alcohol and other drugs.
- Health complications: Tobacco use can cause complications and prevent or impede recovery from certain conditions. Stopping tobacco use helps the body heal and stave off infection by improving blood flow to the site of an injury or wound. This is especially true and vital for those with multiple conditions. This includes Veterans who are HIV-positive and also have mental health conditions, substance use disorders or lung disease.
You can be tobacco free
With useful information, counseling and medication from VA, Veterans can live tobacco free. Let VA’s tobacco cessation resources help, because without tobacco, Better Starts Today!
- Counseling and medication: Counseling and medication fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Counseling can help people who use tobacco identify and address behaviors and triggers that lead to tobacco use, while medication can help relieve their cravings and physical symptoms. Veterans can learn more about how those pieces fit together by watching the Tobacco and Health: Counseling and Medication video and talking with their VA health care provider.
- Quit VET: Veterans can call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838) to speak to a tobacco cessation counselor Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time. Quit VET connects Veterans with trained counselors who can help develop a quit plan and provide ongoing counseling and support to prevent relapse.
- SmokefreeVET: Veterans can sign up for SmokefreeVET to receive texts with tips and tools to beat cravings by texting VET to 47848. SmokefreeVET provides regular text messages as well as extra support at your fingertips when you text the keywords URGE, STRESS, SMOKED or DIPPED.
For more information about living tobacco free, visit https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/quit-tobacco.
This article is courtesy the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Tobacco and Health Program.