Rates and Correlates of Tobacco Cessation Service Use Nationally in the Veterans Health Administration

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Tobacco use is a substantial problem for veterans using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services, but relatively little is known about the association of specific patient characteristics, patterns of service use, the amount of such services, and the frequency of their use. Analysis of national VHA administrative data (N = 5,531,379) from fiscal year 2012 (FY2012) were used to identify use of tobacco cessation counseling services among veterans with a diagnosed tobacco use disorder, and to examine correlates of such use. Only 3.8% of veterans diagnosed with a tobacco use disorder used VHA tobacco cessation services, and only 0.9% met U.S. Public Health Service clinical practice guidelines for the recommended amount of counseling (i.e., 4 or more sessions). Veterans who used intensive tobacco cessation counseling services were more likely to be homeless, had comorbid mental health and substance use disorders, and used more VHA services overall than veterans who did not use tobacco cessation services. An analysis of the supply of tobacco cessation services (counseling visits provided per 100 veteran users of any services at each facility) showed that increasing the supply by just 1 visit for every 100 veterans would increase the percentage of veterans involved in tobacco cessation counseling by 35%. Veterans diagnosed with tobacco use disorder substantially underuse VHA tobacco cessation counseling services, and use is greatest at facilities that provide more tobacco cessation counseling services. Future efforts should focus on increasing the amount of VHA tobacco cessation services and encouraging veterans’ awareness of and motivation to use these services.

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