Daily Archives: August 22, 2009

Separating Tobacco from the Military is difficult

Banning tobacco use in the military is growing loud this summer. Medical experts said that smoking by solders is a habit that saps service member health and drains billions in public dollars annually.
In June, the nonprofit Institute of Medicine recommended a phased-in ban across the Department of Defense after the institute completed a study requested by the DOD. When the institute’s proposals were released, the American Lung Association said the U.S. military should institute a historic tobacco ban much like it passed to end racial isolation and accept women.
Dr. Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary of protection for clinical and program policy, said that such a move in national attitudes and rules about tobacco might be needed to make a DOD-wide ban realistic.
Smith and others in the DOD said that they worry such a big change could hurt military recruitment efforts.
Smith explained: “Tobacco for better or worse is a legal substance. And a ban would be completely different than society as a whole.”
The DOD will suppose that the tobacco recommendations, containing immediate bans for new officers and enlisted personnel enforced by urine testing, when it gathers its Medical and Personnel Council in a few months.
New legislation would need the cooperation of the U.S. Congress, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Sgt. Fred Pedro, an Army recruiter in Albany, N.Y., said the policy of no tobacco in fundamental training already makes some implicit newcomers hesitate, and a military-wide ban could turn off even more prospective enlistees.
Both the Institute of Medicine and American Lung Association proposed a downrange ban, and both said there should be an exception for war zones. The military has remained protective of cigarettes and tobacco in combat.
Despite the interests, the military should ban tobacco use all over else, said Charles Connor, a retired Navy captain and the president and CEO of the American Lung Association.
Connor reported: “If you look back many decades, the military has led the way on social issues — segregation, gender equality, drug abuse. There is never really going to be a great time to take on separating tobacco from the military.”
The Institute of Medicine and the American Lung Association said that military tobacco sales are an obstacle to cutting use and should be checked.
A full elimination of tobacco use is possible in less than two decades, said Dr. Stuart Bondurant, medical expert.
Bondurant said the ban should begin with officer trainees, because they set an example among the ranks, and new enlisted service members should follow quickly behind.