Veterans and Lung Disease

by | Mar 25, 2015 | Lifestyle, Lung Disease

Veterans of the US armed services are at a higher risk of lung disease than the general civilian population. There is an astounding number of ways a serviceperson can develop a lung disease due to their profession. Occupational lung disease can come from exposure to sand dust, chemicals, metals in the air from exploded munitions, aeroallergens found in desert regions, and smoke from burn pits. However, one of the most common ways a person serving might develop a lung disease is smoking. Veterans and lung disease don’t have to be synonymous, yet speaking to and helping veterans stop smoking is different than doing the same with their civilian counterparts.

Facts about Smoking in the Military

During the Second World War, the number of military people that smoked cigarettes was much higher than the civilian population back home. This proportion has dropped over the years, and in the early 2000s, the percentage of service people that smoked was in line with the general public. However, according to the Department of Defense, as of 2008, the percentage of military service members who smoked rose to 1.5% above the national average. There are large disparities when comparing each branch as well. Here is the breakdown by percentage of smokers by service branch:

  • Air Force: 16.7%
  • Coast Guard: 19.9%
  • Navy: 24.4%
  • Army: 26.7%
  • Marine Corp: 30.8%

This information is not surprising given that 74.4 percent of military personnel reported that they smoke to relieve stress while 75.3 percent said it was to relax or calm down.  No branch of service is without stressors, but the ones known for the most stressful and dangerous duties have a much higher rate of smoking. On top of those that smoke to relieve stress, 55.5 percent of service members said they smoke due to boredom. This is also quite telling given that 28 percent of smokers said they would smoke less if the number of locations where smoking was permitted were limited, as it is in many cities. Also, 25 percent said they would smoke less if the prices of cigarettes on base were not discounted.

Helping a Veteran Quit Smoking

Each and every person makes decisions based on their own experiences. This is apparent in veterans, who have often faced a life or death scenario. Telling a veteran that they should quit smoking because it could kill them or harm them in anyway is not like telling a civilian the same thing. Showing a veteran images of black lungs that underperform or cancer will also likely have little effect compared to what they’ve seen in combat. With this being the case, explaining the benefits of smoking cessation is a far more effective tool than the detriments of continuing. For example, here are some great benefits to quitting smoking:

  • You’ll be able to get more active, which means you’ll be able to do more outdoor activities and won’t get tired or winded so easily. Maybe you can pick up a sport or go fishing more often.
  • You’ll save a ton of money. If you currently smoke about a pack a day, then you are paying about $6.20 a day, or $2,263 a year just to smoke.
  • You won’t stink. It’s the truth; people who smoke don’t smell great. Their pores are stuffed up with oils and smoke that does not give off a pleasant odor.
  • Your lungs will improve from the first day you quit smoking, and although it may seem like a long time before a payout, the health benefits get progressively better by the day. Here is a breakdown of how your lungs improve post smoking cessation.

We have a responsibility to care for the women and men that selflessly protect us everyday; that starts with helping them kick the habit.  The Department of Veterans Affairs has some great information to help you work with a vet in your life to quit smoking.

If you or a loved one already quit, and now you need help treating your lung disease, the Lung Health Institute can help. We use cells from your own body to help treat the debilitating nature of your lung disease. If you want to learn more, contact us by calling 888-745-6697, and we can answer any questions. There is no reason you can’t get your life back within reach.

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