Hispanic Veterans and Smoking Cessation

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) serves a Veteran population that is increasingly racially and ethnically diverse.  Equitable access to high-quality care for all Veterans is a major tenet of the VA healthcare mission.  The Office of Health Equity (OHE) champions the elimination of health disparities and achieving health equity for all Veterans. They released the brief, Hispanic Veterans and Smoking Cessation.

Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the United States. They represent 14% of those currently enlisted in the U.S. Military and the proportion of Hispanic Veterans is expected to nearly double by 2043. Compared to Hispanic non-Veterans, Hispanic Veterans are older, more likely to be male, better educated, and more likely to be retired.

There are approximately 1,350,000 current smokers in the United States.  Hispanics in the general population have a lower prevalence of smoking (10.7% vs 15.5%) and are lighter smokers than the general population.  However, Hispanic Veterans are more likely to be current or former smokers than Hispanic non-Veterans and are more likely to smoke daily throughout their lifetime (77.4% vs 59.5%, p= 0.003).

The health of Hispanic Americans is shaped by language/cultural barriers and other social determinants of health. The disparity in smoking risk observed between Hispanic Veterans and Hispanic non-Veterans gives additional weight to the notion that serving in the Military may weaken any protective effects Hispanic culture may have in reducing smoking rates compared to the general population. Veterans have cited the difficulty of coping with combat injuries and adjusting to an unstructured lifestyle as reasons for the maintenance of smoking. Health behaviors are closely connected to Hispanics’ social environment and socioeconomic status, culturally tailored public health initiatives may help improve health outcomes in the Hispanic community.

Population: Latinx and Veterans

Links:

  • Read the full brief from the Veterans Health Administration.
  • Learn more about the Veterans Health Administration.
  • Access a list of all tobacco cessation resources available for Veterans through the VHA Tobacco & Health National Program Office.
  • Learn more about the Office of Health Equity.
  • Access the Hispanic Veterans factsheet from the Office of Health Equity.

Date: 2020