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.”