Military Banning Tobacco?

The Defense Department is being urged to ban tobacco use by its personnel, Gregg Zoroya reports for USA Today.

Pentagon health experts are urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ban the use of tobacco by troops and end its sale on military property, a change that could dramatically alter a culture intertwined with smoking.

Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon’s office of clinical and program policy, says he will recommend that Gates adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban.

The study by the Institute of Medicine, requested by the VA and Pentagon, calls for a phased-in ban over a period of years, perhaps up to 20. “We’ll certainly be taking that recommendation forward,” Smith says.

A tobacco ban would confront a military culture, the report says, in which “the image of the battle-weary soldier in fatigues and helmet, fighting for his country, has frequently included his lit cigarette.”

Also, the report said, troops worn out by repeated deployments often rely on cigarettes as a “stress reliever.” The study found that tobacco use in the military increased after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

There are arguments to be made in favor of a ban, of course.  Not only in terms of the need to maintain a fit force but also the long-term health care costs that the federal government may incur.  Balanced against that is freedom, not something the military is known to care much about for its troops despite fighting for same as its mission statement.

Still, I think John Cole is correct in his prediction that “we will see the end of DADT and homosexuals will be openly serving in the military before a tobacco ban.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. floyd says:

    Just a reminder that the Commander-in Chief is not technically military!

  2. floyd says:

    “we will see the end of DADT and homosexuals will be openly serving in the military before a tobacco ban.”

    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Is this related??
    Out with the old F@&s and in with the new?
    Come now… you were thinkin’ it!

  3. DC Loser says:

    Just remember the moralists got the girlie mags banned from AAFES.

  4. Herb says:

    There are arguments to be made in favor of a ban, of course. Not only in terms of the need to maintain a fit force but also the long-term health care costs that the federal government may incur.

    Yes, there are arguments to be made…bad ones.

    We seem to maintain a pretty fit force now…with all the smoking and binge-drinking soldiers are famous for. (Youth…it’s a strong elixir.)

    As for the long-term health care costs, that just doesn’t make sense. If we’re worried about long-term health care costs, why not ban combat too?

    Lung Cancer man is going to rack up some major health care costs, but I doubt he’ll live long enough to make them “long term.” A teenager maimed by a roadside bomb, though…he might live for a long time.

    Let them smoke. Let them eat cheeseburgers. Let them enjoy their youths and think they’ll live forever.

    After all…if cigarettes don’t kill them, something else will. No one gets out alive. Not even non-smokers.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    Let them drink at the age of 18 too.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Out with the old F@&s and in with the new?

    Ahh, how typical, not to mention stale…never pass up the opportunity to make a homophobic remark…they must really bother you that much…

  7. sam says:

    Well, the Marines (the Marines!!!) have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol (Chesty’s no doubt spinning in his grave), so sameo-sameo for smokes is not far-fetched.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    In the land of the free, what happened to freedom?

  9. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Shame on you! The word was Fads! What ever were you thinking!
    What next? No carbonated beverages?

  10. Wayne says:

    Frankly I get tire of taking away peoples freedom using the excuse of “it’s for their own good”. If there was a “medium” or “high” risk of tobacco use resulting in users turning to violent crimes or hurting someone that is another story and no, second hand smoke is not considered a medium or high risk of harming someone else. Although as a non smoker I don’t much care for it.

    Also I assume this include smokeless tobacco products. How many liberals defend the woman’s freedom to kill an baby but not a individual’s right to smoke or not wear a seatbelt.

  11. JKB says:

    And what will be used to remove the stench of burning flesh from their lungs?

    Tobacco is a stress reliever, tobacco smoke is a bug repellent, tobacco covers rising bile and the odors that form such strong memories, tobacco is a starting link in many friendships and parleys. So while they may be able to ban smoking in barracks, I doubt they’ll be able to ban smoking in the field.

  12. sam says:

    @Zelsdorf

    In the land of the free, what happened to freedom?

    I thought you’d been in the service, Zels.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    re: floyd at July 10, 2009 14:45

    Awww…aren’t you just so coy…if you are going to present bigoted views, you could at least be upfront about it, dare I say, even be a man about it…I do wonder if you would feel that way with other epithets, say, racial or ethnic…I’m especially curious if you would be so glib if one of those was applied to you…

  14. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Do you EVER speak for yourself or do you just get off being the “Speech Nazi”?

  15. Herb says:

    Well, the Marines (the Marines!!!) have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol

    Really?? Since when??

    Sounds like a crime against the Corps to me…

  16. hcantrall says:

    Unless it’s changed in the last few years, it was legal to drink at 18 on Camp Pendleton. Only for military personnel.

  17. PD Shaw says:

    On drinking, I believe federal statute prohibits military bases from ignoring state drinking laws, unless the base is within 50 miles from the U.S. border, which I believe Camp Pendleton is.

  18. James Joyner says:

    On drinking, I believe federal statute prohibits military bases from ignoring state drinking laws, unless the base is within 50 miles from the U.S. border, which I believe Camp Pendleton is.

    Actually, the law is that the drinking age on base is:

    1) That of the state.

    2) If the base is within 50 miles from another state or Canada or Mexico, it’s the lowest age in any of those jurisdictions unless otherwise specified by SECDEF

    3) 18 for overseas bases unless otherwise specified by SECDEF

    Ft. Bliss, which is a few miles from Juarez, Mexico had a drinking age of 18 for years by recently raised it to 21 after many drunk driving incidents.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    re: floyd at July 10, 2009 15:30

    Let me assure you that I only speak for myself…I am curious, though…if someone complained about the use of words like “nigger” or “kike” or “dago”, would that person also be considered a “Speech Nazi”? I’m so sorry to interrupt your bigotry, er, humor…do continue…

  20. sam says:

    Really?? Since when??

    Sounds like a crime against the Corps to me…

    See, Donovan Campbell, Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood (2009), pp.32-33:

    Any offense involving the use of alcohol is considered a deadly and often unforgivable sin in the American military–the peacetime, zero-defects leaders of the 1990s entirely eliminated the drinking culture that has been a proud part of military heritage worldwide since the days of Herodotus….[B]y the rules of the Corps, which prohibited [Pvt. _______’s] very presence in a barracks room containing alcohol [the private was underage], he was guilty as charged.

    Needless to say, I was flabbergasted when I read that and checked with my brother. He affirmed the policy.

  21. sam says:

    Oh, and needless to say, I’d bet 90% or better of the enlisted in the First Marine Division when I was in would have been at a captain’s mast every Monday morning.

  22. Hangtown Bob says:

    Well, it seems to me that if we are concerned about containing long-term health costs, we (the public) should demand that ALL GOVERMNENT WORKERS (including politicians) cease smoking.

    And then, after the Gov’t becomes our health care provider, we can require ALL AMERICANS to cease smoking. That will certainly contain health care costs.

    Of course, since the Gov’t needs the taxes that are received from cigarette purchase, it seems only reasonable that we (Americans) be required to continue to purchase the cigarettes. We must buy them; we just can’t smoke them.

  23. Mike says:

    Is this really the fight/debate/argument that the Army wants to bring up now? There are a lot of more pressing issues than to dictate what a soldier can and can’t do esp when it is legal for anyone over 18. The suggestion that anyone working for the gov’t should have to quit seems fitting – their medical care is funded by taxpayers. Perhaps the president will lead the way.