Smoking prevalence among US veterans

J Gen Intern Med. 2010 Feb;25(2):147-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1160-0. Epub 2009 Nov 6.


Background/objective: Cigarette smoking is a significant health problem within the US military. Data from the 2003-2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were used to estimate and compare the prevalence of smoking among US veterans with that of adults who did not serve in the US armed forces.

Methods: Data from the BRFSS, a state-based random-digit dialed telephone survey supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were used to estimate the prevalence of current smoking among adults (aged >or=18 years) who reported ever serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. We compared, by birth cohort, age-adjusted smoking prevalence among veterans with that of adults who did not serve in the military.

Results: A total of 224,169 US veterans participated during 2003-2007. The age-adjusted prevalence of smoking during the period was 27.0% (standard error, 0.36) among veterans and 21% (0.12) among non-veterans. For both groups, the prevalence decreased across years from 29% (0.79) in 2003 to 25% (0.82) in 2007 among veterans and from 23% (0.29) in 2003 to 20% (0.26) in 2007 among non-veterans. Among veterans, smoking prevalence was highest among men born between 1975-1984 (36%; 90%CI = 33.7-37.5) and those born between 1985-1989 (37%; 90%CI = 31.7-48.2) with lower prevalences among men born between 1945-1954 (26%; 90%CI = 25.1-26.3), 1955-1964 (33%; 90%CI = 32.3-34.3), and 1965-1974 (27%; 90%CI = 26.0-28.1). The prevalence of smoking was 43% (90%CI = 39.0-47.6) among veterans with self-reported coronary heart disease (CHD), greater than that for non-veterans with CHD (31%; 90%CI = 28.6-33.1).

Conclusions: Although the prevalence of smoking has declined among US adults, there are opportunities to further reduce smoking among US veterans, particularly young veterans for whom the prevalence of smoking is similar to that of the US adult population during the late 1960s/early 1970s. Continued work is necessary to target the high smoking prevalence among veterans with CHD, a group for which smoking cessation is especially important.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / trends*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Prevention
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans*