Tobacco Use and Other Health Issues

Smoking affects everyone’s health. But if you have other health issues, smoking can affect you even more. That’s especially true if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV, depression, or substance use disorders (SUD).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Dealing with PTSD is hard. But did you know that smoking actually makes PTSD symptoms worse? It also makes recovery harder.

Think about the goals of your PTSD treatment. How does smoking keep you from reaching those goals?

You can use the same skills to manage your PTSD symptoms and deal with nicotine cravings.


Research shows that people with HIV are two to three times more likely to be smokers than people who don’t have HIV. Smoking is tough on the body, and that’s especially true for people with HIV. They are more likely to get sick more frequently.

Smokers who have HIV face the same tobacco-related health risks as other smokers—like cancer, cardiac disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Plus, people with HIV who smoke have an increased risk of respiratory tract infections, including acute bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, and tuberculosis. The risk of pneumocystis pneumonia—a serious infection common among people with HIV—is increased by smoking.

Smoking can affect the metabolism and effectiveness of some medications that are used to treat HIV. So they might not work as well as they should to keep the HIV virus under control. This may cause a faster progression from HIV to AIDS.

Overall, people with HIV who smoke have a shorter life expectancy than people with HIV who don’t smoke. Thinking about quitting? Build your quit plan.

Depression and Anxiety

People living with depression or anxiety are two times more likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers. Some people think that smoking relieves stress, but that’s not true.

Any short-term relief you feel from smoking is replaced by the stress of going through nicotine withdrawal. Research shows that over time, quitting smoking lowers stress levels and decreases depression symptoms.

If you smoke while taking medication to treat depression or anxiety, it’s important to know that some medications won’t work as well. And smoking may make you more likely to have thoughts about suicide.

Quitting won’t interfere with your mental health treatment. In fact, quitting can boost the benefits you get from treatment. And quitting can improve your mood and well-being. Want to know more? Talk to your VA primary care provider or mental health provider about quitting. Or call 1-855-QUIT-VET to talk with a Quit VET counselor.

Learn about other resources that can help support you during your quit journey.

Substance Abuse Disorders (SUD)

About 70–80% of people with SUD are smokers. The good news? Effective treatment is available.

The risks add up for SUD and smoking. Did you know that veterans who smoke and use other drugs have higher rates of disability and poorer health? In fact, more than half of the patients treated for SUD die from tobacco-related causes—that’s almost double the risk for smokers without SUD.

Smoking actually makes it harder to recover from SUD. Smoking and drinking/drug use often go together. So when a person smokes, it can trigger a strong craving for alcohol and drugs. That increases the risk of relapse.

Quitting smoking can actually help a person recover from SUD. Smokers with SUD who receive treatment for both their smoking and SUD are more likely to successfully stop using drugs and alcohol.

Ready to get started with treatment? Call the Quit Vet Quitline at 1-855-QUIT-VET to speak with a counselor about quitting.