PURPOSE:The prevalence of tobacco abuse has been reported to be higher amongst US Military personal in prior studies. This study looks specifically at prevalence of tobacco usage of a combat unit during deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraq Freedom from 2007 through 2008.
METHODS:During the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Divisions deployment in support of combat operations in Iraq, a survey was conducted to assess the prevalence of tobacco abuse and usage patterns related to service. A cross section of 408 Marines and Sailors in the battalion (37%) were surveyed. Constraints related to operations and mobility prevented surveying the entire battalion in country.
RESULTS:Overall, 260 of the 408 Marines and Sailors surveyed (64%) used some form of tobacco. Of those, 213 (52%) smoked cigarettes, 145 (36%) used smokeless tobacco (dip, chew), and 98 (24%) used both. Amongst smokers, the average daily amount consumed was 12 cigarettes. The average daily use of smokeless tobacco was 1/2 a can. Amongst smokers 80% stated that being in the military had increased their use of cigarettes while 72% stated the Iraq deployment had increased their use. Amongst smokeless abusers, 60% stated being in the military increased their use of tobacco while 57% stated the Iraq deployment had increased their use of tobacco. For all tobacco abusers 74% expressed a desire to quit using tobacco.
CONCLUSION:The prevalence of tobacco abuse during deployment to Iraq was significantly higher than the national average of 29.6% reported in a 2006 National Survey. The rate of usage was also higher than the 38.9% reported for troops returning from Iraq based on a 2004 survey.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS:This study indicates the prevalence of tobacco abuse in combat units deployed to Iraq is substantially higher than the national average. Such abuse will likely cause a greater negative impact on the long term health of US Veterans then combat related injuries and will have great finical consequences for both VA and US healthcare systems.
DISCLOSURE:Michael Wilson, None.