Smoke-Free: Here and How - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Smoke-Free: Here and How

No smoking street sign

Stop smoking now and make a great choice for your health.

By Rachel Weiler, Psychology Extern & Carey A. Pawlowski, Ph.D., Rehabilitation Psychologist
Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The VA Palo Alto Health Care System is smoke-free as of October 1, 2019. If you smoke cigarettes, vape, or use other tobacco products, you are no longer able to do so at any VA Palo Alto medical divisions and clinics. Why not take this as a chance to make a great choice for your health?

There are many good reasons to quit smoking.

  • Within the first 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and pulse can lower.
  • Within the first day, your chance of having a heart attack goes down.
  • Within two days, your abilities to smell and taste improve.
  • In the first few months, you will notice less fatigue and easier breathing.
  • Within a year, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker.

Additionally, quitting can also save you money. Someone who smoked a pack a day can save $200 in a month, $2,500 in a year, and over $30,000 in 10 years!

Breaking the powerful habit of smoking takes more than just willpower. To be successful, many people need a plan for quitting. Below are some resources to help:

  • Counseling
    A trained mental health provider can help you make a realistic plan, stay on track, and follow through. You can meet with a provider in person, over the phone, through texting or phone-based apps.
  • Set a Quit Date
    It is easy to put off quitting to another time, so start by setting a quit date. Tell friends and family about your planned quit date. Before your quit date, get rid of all cigarettes and tobacco products, and don’t buy any more.
  • Cope with Cravings
    Use the DEADS strategy to cope with cravings:
    • Delay: Wait 5-10 minutes before giving in to an urge to smoke. Most urges will go away in that amount of time.
    • Escape: Remove yourself from situations that trigger the urge to smoke.
      - For example, if you are standing in an area where people are smoking, go somewhere else you cannot see or smell cigarettes.
    • Avoid: Stay away from situations where you will be tempted to smoke.
      - For example, if you used to go outside for a smoke break, take your break somewhere else you will not be reminded of smoking.
    • Distract: If you are having an urge to smoke, keep yourself busy with something else.
      - For example, watch something on TV or engage in a hobby.
    • Substitute: Try substituting another object for a cigarette.
      - For example, try chewing gum, eating carrots, or putting a straw or toothpick in your mouth when you have the urge to smoke.
  • Medications
    Medications can help to cope with cravings. Both over-the-counter products (like nicotine gum and patches) and prescription meds are proven to help smokers quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about what might be right for you.

It is never too late to quit! Even if you have struggled to quit smoking in the past, you may find that trying again with a new quit method helps you stay away from smoking. It may take a few attempts, but you CAN be successful in quitting smoking, and we want to help.

Other Resources

The VA offers many forms of support to help you quit smoking.

  • TeleQuit is a program where VA providers will call you on the phone to provide help quitting, including counseling and medication prescriptions. Ask your VA provider to refer you to the TeleQuit program, or call 1-650-493-5000, extension 60557.
  • QuitVet is a telephone hotline where you can speak to a trained counselor about making a quit plan developed just for you. Call 1-855-QUIT-VET.
  • SmokefreeVET is a text-message based service to help you quit. For help in English, text VET to 47848 or visit For Spanish, text VETesp to 47848 or visit
  • Stay Quit Coach is the VA’s app to help with quitting tobacco products. If you enjoy using apps on your phone, Stay Quit Coach is a convenient, personalized way to get started quitting. Visit to download the app.


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