Tobacco Treatment Center | Veterans Affairs

Tobacco Treatment Center | Veterans Affairs

What Your Health Care Team Wants You to Know

Congratulations on your decision to stop using tobacco!  Within just 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure start to go down.  Within 8 hours, your oxygen level increases.  You may be breathing easier by the end of the first week.


Medication Assisted Treatment

Your chances of successfully quitting tobacco are TRIPLED if you use medicine and attend tobacco treatment appointments. The following medications may be discussed to help manage cravings and withdrawal:

  • Nicotine Patch
  • Nicotine Gum
  • Nicotine Lozenge
  • Bupropion (Zyban/Wellbutrin)


Risks of Tobacco Use

“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.”

            – 2004 Surgeon General’s Report

Your risk increases with each use of tobacco.  Each cigarette takes ten minutes off your life expectancy!


  • Harms every major organ
  • Causes 75% of lung cancer deaths
  • Causes most cancers of the voice box, mouth, esophagus, and bladder
  • Is a major cause of problems with sexual function
  • Causes cataracts and glaucoma
  • Causes emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
  • Causes thinning of the bones


Benefits Of Quitting

No matter how long you have used tobacco, your health WILL improve.

  • Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure will be lower, your pulse will be more normal, and your hands and feet will feel warmer.
  • Within 8 hours, you will have more oxygen.
  • After 24 hours, you begin to lower your risk of a heart attack.
  • After 2 weeks, your lung function improves. You will cough less and breathe easier.
  • After 3 years, your risk of heart disease will be almost the same as someone who never used tobacco.
  • Your sense of taste and smell returns.
  • You can do more activities with less effort.
  • You will enjoy FREEDOM from tobacco!


It Can Be A Hard Decision To Stop Using Tobacco

Maybe you have had problems stopping before.  It may not be as hard if you use nicotine replacement medication you were prescribed and get a support coach to help you over the rough spots.  Call the telephone QUITLINE 1-855-Quit-Vet (1-855-784-8838) for a support coach.   More information is available here: .


More support is available through the Stay Quit Coach App.  The Stay Quit Coach App is designed to help with quitting smoking. It is intended to serve as a source of readily available support and information for adults who are already in treatment to quit smoking – to help them stay quit even after treatment ends. The app guides users in creating a tailored plan that takes into account their personal reasons for quitting.  It provides information about smoking and quitting, interactive tools to help users cope with urges to smoke, and motivational messages and support contacts to help users stay smoke-free.  This app is available for both Android and iPhone devices.  It can be downloaded from the play store or apple store for free.


  • The more support you have, the better your chances for success.
  • Nicotine patches, gum, or lozenge do not have all the harmful chemicals that tobacco has.
  • The nicotine replacement medicines will help treat nicotine cravings.  The patch, gum, or lozenge will not make you quit, but they will help you be more comfortable while learning new ways to live without tobacco.


What Do I Need To Do To Stop Using Tobacco?

Contact the Tobacco Treatment Center or your primary care doctor to let them know you are ready to quit. Discuss smoking cessation medications to assist with your quit.  The next step is to set a stop date.  Some people decide to set this date for when they run out of tobacco.  After this date, you will have fewer cravings if you use medication daily and stay away from tobacco.  This means do not buy, bum, or keep tobacco.


How to plan for your stop date:

  • Get rid of all lighters and ashtrays
  • Tell your family and friends that you are stopping tobacco.  Ask for their help.  Maybe one could be your support coach.  
  • Family can help by stopping with you or using tobacco OUTSIDE the home.  Ask them to keep their tobacco with them, not laying around the house or car.
  • Plan to stay busy to keep your mind off using tobacco.  Changing your routine can help.
  • Think about why you are stopping in the first place: like breathing easier, smelling better, saving money, improving your health, or to live longer.  Write down the list of reasons and place the list where you would have normally have placed your tobacco.  Look at this list when you have a craving.
  • Remember, cravings will pass in a few minutes whether you use tobacco or not.


How To Manage Strong Sudden Urges

It is normal to have strong urges to use tobacco at the same times that you used tobacco in the past.  For example, first thing in the morning, with coffee, after a meal, and while driving, may be times that the urge to smoke, chew or dip may be strong.


Although most urges are relieved by the patch, nicotine lozenge or gum may provide additional relief if you experience a craving while wearing a patch.  Remember, it may take 10-15 minutes for the craving to go away.  You can use up to 10 pieces of gum or lozenge a day, every 2-4 hours.


You will know that you are ready to use the lower strength patch when you only use a few pieces of lozenges or gum in a week.  By the time you are down to the 7 mg patch, you should stop using the nicotine gum or lozenge.


Nicotine gum and lozenges are medicines -don’t use them like candy!

Sometimes just doing something different or using regular, sugar-free gum or candy will take care of the urge without using more nicotine medication.  You will have fewer urges if you are not carrying tobacco, keeping ashtrays, hanging around smokers, or letting people smoke in your house or car.  

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