WASHINGTON — The military has come a long way from the time when it packaged cigarettes in with rations, but more must be done, according to an Institute of Medicine report.
The report, titled “Combating Tobacco in Military and Veteran Populations,” calls for Defense Department officials to set a timeline to eliminate smoking on military installations.
Officials from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs asked the institute to prepare the report in 2007. It was released June 28.
More than 30 percent of active-duty military members use tobacco products of some kind. “Of greater concern, the rate of tobacco use in the military has increased since 1998, threatening to reverse the steady decline of the last several decades,” the report states. “Furthermore, smoking rates among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be 50 percent higher than rates among nondeployed military personnel.”
Officials from the DOD and the services have worked hard to become tobacco-free. The services have banned use of tobacco products during basic training, the report said, and they have launched extensive public-education campaigns and commander training. “The committee recommends that [the Defense Department] establish a timeline to eliminate all tobacco use on military installations to protect the health of all military personnel, civilian employees, family members and visitors,” the report says.
The committee — chaired by Stuart Bondurant, a professor of medicine and dean emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — found that “achieving a tobacco-free military begins by closing the pipeline of new tobacco users entering the military and by promoting cessation programs to ensure abstinence.”
The committee recommended using a phased approach. The military academies and officer training programs should become tobacco-free first, followed by new enlisted recruits and finally all other active-duty personnel, the report says.
DOD officials fully support the goal of a tobacco-free military, said Pentagon Spokeswoman Cynthia Smith, and officials believe it’s achievable through development and execution of a comprehensive plan as recommended by the report. “However, achieving that goal will in part depend on coincident reductions of tobacco use in the civilian population.”
The department has been at the forefront of tobacco-cessation efforts. Officials recently launched the “Quit Tobacco — Make Everyone Proud” campaign at http://www.ucanquit2.org. It targets young enlisted men and women who use tobacco. The Web site provides information, resources, interactive tools and practical help. Servicemembers who want to quit tobacco can get immediate help from a trained tobacco-cessation coach from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST every day.
The report also recommends DOD officials stop selling tobacco products in military commissaries and exchanges, to prohibit tobacco use anywhere on military installations, and to treat tobacco use in the same way as other health-related behaviors, such as alcohol abuse and poor physical fitness.
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