Talking to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans about tobacco use

Rachel Widome, Anne M. Joseph, Melissa A. Polusny, Bernadette Chlebeck, Betsy Brock, Ashley Gulden, Steven S. Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Our goal in this study was to examine beliefs and attitudes about tobacco use in the newest generation of combat veterans, those who served in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom [OEF]) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF]). Methods: We held 5 focus groups (n = 17) with Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers who had recently returned from combat deployment in support of OEF/OIF. Sessions were audiorecorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Results: We found that it is common to use tobacco in the combat zone for stress and anger management and boredom relief. Tobacco was also a tool for staying alert, a way to socialize, and provided a chance to take breaks. Participants recognized the culture of tobacco use in the military. Stress, nicotine dependence, the tobacco environment at drill activities, and perceived inaccessibility of cessation tools perpetuated use at home and served as a barrier to cessation. Repeatedly, participants cited tobacco policies (such as increased taxes and smoke-free workspaces) as motivators for quitting. Conclusions: There are specific circumstances common to combat zones that promote tobacco use. Results suggest that environmental changes that address the prominence of tobacco in military culture, the acceptance of nonsmoking breaks, and cessation programs that address stress issues and make cessation aids available may be effective in reducing tobacco use. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-626
Number of pages4
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011

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