Veterans urged to pursue smoking freedom: ‘Don’t quit trying. Try quitting’


By Raymond Taylor

PREVIEW Columnist

In conjunction with the Great American Smokeout observed Nov. 18, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is encouraging veterans to talk to their health care providers about smoking cessation programs to help them quit, as cigarette use continues to decline nationwide.

The 2020 Survey of Veteran Enrollees’ Health and Use of Health Care Data Findings Report, published in March 2021, found that the rate of veterans enrolled in VA health care who identified as smokers dropped nearly 20 percent in 21 years, from 33 percent in 1999 to 13.3 percent in 2020.

By comparison, the smoking rate among enrolled veterans is slightly lower than the rate of smokers in the U.S. general population, which is currently 14.2 percent.

“Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but don’t quit trying — the benefits of quitting include reducing stress and cancer risks, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and improving one’s overall mental health,” said National Mental Health Director for Tobacco and Health Kim Hamlett-Berry, Ph.D. “While rates of smoking have steadily declined, most people make several attempts to quit. Research has found that combining treatments, such as counseling and prescription medication, increases veterans’ chances of stopping smoking for good.”

In addition to the VA’s wide range of tobacco use treatment options, the VA provides many other services designed to help veterans stop smoking, like nicotine-replacement products, gum and patches, and supportive resources, such as:

• Quit VET: Veterans can call (855) QUIT-VET [(855) 784-8838] to receive tobacco cessation counseling from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., ET Monday through Friday. Counseling is available in English and Spanish.

• SmokefreeVET: For tools and tips to quit smoking, veterans can sign up for SmokefreeVET by texting VET to 47848. This service is also available in Spanish.

Counseling support and all FDA-approved smoking cessation medications are available for eligible veterans seeking assistance with quitting smoking.

Learn more about the VA’s tobacco cessation resources by visiting: 

Festival of Trees

Both Vets4Vets and Veterans Memorial Park have trees in the Festival of Trees at Ross Aragon Community Center. Support our community and veterans during public voting on Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.

Dialing procedure

Don’t forget the new dialing procedures: Effective Oct. 24, to complete all local calls, you will need to dial area code and telephone number. This means 10 digits for local call. This is required due to the new “988” code for National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline.

Grant allows Vets4Vets to help local veterans 

Vets4Vets of Archuleta County has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This financial grant is to support veterans in our community through the following assistance: housing, utilities, mental health counseling, dental services, travel assistance, automobile repairs, gas and food cards, and emergency veteran assistance. 

Contact Vets4Vets at or

Contact information

Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office (VSO), located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

The office: (970) 264-4013, fax number: (970) 264-4014, and email is Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave a message and phone number to contact you.

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Tennyson Building Event Center, 197 Navajo Trail Drive, on all but the first Tuesday. Breakfast meeting on the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. Contact (970) 799-8387 for more details.

• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at (970) 946-2540.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at (970) 903-9690.

Important information

• Vets4Vets: (970) 880-VETS,

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: (970) 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

• VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

• VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.