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article imageReport: US Military Should Ban All Tobacco Sales

By Mat Elmore     Jul 12, 2009 in Politics
A report written by the Institute of Medicine and commissioned by the Pentagon and Department of Veteran Affairs recommends a complete ban on tobacco in the military.
Not surprisingly, the report found that many soldiers rely on tobacco, mainly cigarettes, as "stress relievers" while in combat.
The study cites tobacco as costing the Pentagon nearly $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity, while the Department of Veteran Affairs spends nearly $6 billion on tobacco-related illnesses.
The Pentagon supports the recommendations and believes that a complete ban is achievable with a plan that phases tobacco out in a five to ten years.
Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, told the USA Today that "he will advise Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban."
Some in the military are not happy with the recommendation.
"When you're tired and you've been going days on end with minimum sleep, and you are not getting the proper meals on time, that hit of tobacco can make a difference," says retired Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated military efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The military saw an increase in tobacco sales after the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began.
Civilians do not smoke as much as soldiers, according to Dr. Ken Kizer, the author of the study. 1 in 3 active military soldiers smoke, while 1 in 5 civilians do. Nearly 50% of those in combat, mainly soldiers and Marines, smoke.
For the ban to be a success in the targeted time period, Kizer says that strong leadership from above, including from President Obama, would be needed. The military heavily subsidizes tobacco used and because of this, sends mixed signals to soldiers.
Profits from tobacco sales on US military bases is estimated at $80 to $90 million, which largely pay for family and recreation programs on the bases, according to CNN.
More about United states military, Military, Tobacco, Pentagon, Department veteran affairs
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