News Releases

Cigarette use one of most significant health risks to military service members

Service members smoke 60% above that of general population

By AOA Media Team


CHICAGO—August 28, 2018— The American Osteopathic Association has partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Tips From Former Smokers® campaign to address high smoking rates among service members, who smoke at a rate 60% above the general population.

According to the CDC, approximately one in four (24%) of all active-duty military service members currently smoke.i That number jumps significantly among the young male population—more than half (50.2%) of male veterans aged 18-25.5 smoke.ii Data from the Department of Defense indicates tobacco use costs the military approximately $1.6 billion annually in lost productivity and health care expenses.iii

In contrast, an estimated 14% of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes.

“Deployment is a factor,” says Captain Dennis Amundson, DO, a pulmonary medicine physician who was stationed with the Marines, Seabees and special operations forces during his 38 years in service. “New recruits face a range of stressors and, at the same time, may enter a culture where smoking is more pervasive.”

While some military personnel may have used e-cigarettes or other tobacco products prior to entering the service, Dr. Amundson suggests the sheer prevalence of smoking may encourage service people to transition to cigarettes. And though vaping data is still inconclusive, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates the trial and experimentation of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults may lead to subsequent cigarette smoking.

As a physician who still serves a large military population, Dr. Amundson counsels patients not to think of smoking as a stress reliever or method to pass time. He suggests limiting access to cigarettes on base and raising prices to discourage smoking. Research shows these tactics are effective deterrents among the military as well as the general public.

The health impact can be quick and severe
Brian H., who shares his story in the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, was a smoker when he joined the Air Force at 19. At 35, he suffered a heart attack that ended his military career.

“It’s hard to serve your country when you’re too weak to put on the uniform,” he shares in campaign videos designed to discourage tobacco use. Now 63, a heart attack and lung cancer survivor, he encourages young service members to understand that tobacco use may be the most dangerous part of their military career.

For more information on the campaign, including profiles of the former smokers, links to the ads, and free quit help, visit

About the AOA

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 137,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit

Media Contact

Jessica Bardoulas, Director of Media Relations