Saturday, July 11, 2009

Banning Smoking In The Military...Bad Idea

This story is about a push by the Pentagon to ban smoking in the military:

U.S. soldiers are trained to handle deadly weapons and smoke out enemies but they may soon find that they aren't allowed to handle cigarettes and light up a smoke.

Pentagon health experts are pressing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ban the use of tobacco by troops and ends its sale on military property, according to USA Today.

Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, told the newspaper that he will advise 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.

The study by the Institute of Medicine calls for a phased-in ban over a period of perhaps up to 20 years.

"We'll certainly be taking that recommendation forward," Smith told the newspaper.

The VA and the Pentagon requested the study, which found that troops worn out by repeated deployments often rely on cigarettes as a "stress reliever." The study also found that tobacco use in the military rose after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Tobacco use costs the Pentagon $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity, according to the study, which was released last month and used older data. The Department of Veterans Affairs spends up to $6 billion in treatments for tobacco-related illnesses, the study found.

The study recommends requiring new officers and enlisted personnel to be tobacco-free, eliminating tobacco use on military installations, ships and aircraft, expanding treatment programs and eliminating the sale of tobacco on military property.

"Any tobacco use while in uniform should be prohibited," the study said.

Personally, I don't think it would be a bad thing if our military members stopped smoking, or at least reduced their smoking. I don't generally consider myself a 'smoker' because I don't smoke cigarettes, but I do smoke cigars from time to time.

Here are a couple of my problems with this ban:

(1) It would refuse promotion to those who already smoked before the ban (at least that is what I get from the article)

(2) It would eliminate what the banners admit is a common stress reliever for combat troops, and I see NO mention what so ever of a replacement stress reliever. In effect, Pentagon health officials would be replacing one health problem with another.

(3) I don't like limitations on free choice that are not necessary to effective combat operations in our military. People in the military give up enough to do their jobs, I don't think it is right to eliminate what few pleasures they can find while engaged in military campaigns.

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