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Combat Deployment Just One Factor That May Cause Smoking

Education, mental health history, being in Army also tied to cigarette use in study

THURSDAY, April 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Combat experience is one of the factors that increases the risk that U.S. soldiers will start smoking, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from a long-term study to assess the long-term health effects of service in the U.S. military. The study began in 2001 and will continue until 2022. The researchers collect survey data every three years.

The focus of this study was military personnel who had never smoked or had quit smoking. The researchers wanted to tease out possible factors for either starting or resuming smoking.

They found that factors linked to resuming or newly starting a smoking habit included pay grade, service branch, combat deployment, mental health history, stress and individual characteristics.

Among older and younger personnel, factors associated with a higher risk of starting or resuming smoking included combat experience, being in the Army, having a previous mental health disorder and lower levels of education, according to the study published April 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study authors said their findings suggest that deployment alone may not serve as a trigger for starting or resuming smoking. And the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link between deployment and smoking.

"Smoking as a coping mechanism and stress reduction aid may explain the higher risk we noted in participants with combat experiences, previous mental health disorders and high life stressors," the researchers from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle added.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains the health effects of smoking.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, news release, April 16, 2015
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