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Pentagon Won't Ban Tobacco Use in Military

(AP / CBS)
The Pentagon said today that it will not ban the use of tobacco in the military, the Associated Press reports.

The announcement comes after a study commissioned by the Pentagon and the Department of Veteran Affairs recommended terminating the use and sale of tobacco products on military property. The study also recommended the military ensure enlistees are smoke-free.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates doesn't want to add to the stress levels of troops fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by taking away tobacco products. He also said that Gates plans on pursuing the goal of a smoke-free military, according to the AP.

When the news broke that the Pentagon was considering a tobacco ban, many voices came out in protest. Jeff Emanuel wrote in a op-ed that the servicemembers shouldn't be subject to a blanket smoking ban.

"Yes, tobacco has been proven to cause both short and long-term health problems - but are we really going to preach about health benefits of their activities to Americans we pay (albeit poorly) to be shot at for a living?" Emanuel asked.

Retired Navy veteran Bobby McCarter, meanwhile, said that he is "totally against" the smoking ban, MSNBC reports. McCarter, who served 20 years in the Navy, said that the men and women in combat need a "cigarette break for stress relief."

Newsweek's Adam Weinstein, who has spent seven months on Camp Victory in Baghdad, said that the general reaction of the soldiers to the study was this: "Bullets and mortars. Desert heat and polluted Mideast air. And now this? Shut up, do-gooders; go hug a tree someplace, and let me have my menthols."

Some do support an idea of the ban for the greater good, however. While Emanuel says that tobacco use is an "ingrained" part of military culture, Weinstein points out that the study suggests the ban over a period of 20 years and that the stereotype surrounding smoking in the military "can – and should – change."

"If the health risks of smoking among soldiers can be done away with, even incrementally, then it's time to start," Weinstein said. "It would lead to a fitter force. It would cut down on the staggering health-care costs for veterans. And it would save lives in the long term—an oft-stated priority for the generals and admirals who command America's serving sons and daughters."

Emanuel, however, says that the physical standards already in place in the military show that a ban on smoking would not lead to a "fitter force."

"If soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines can meet the physical standards their respective chains of command have set for them, what they legally do in their own time should be considered entirely irrelevant, as it has been demonstrably shown to have no effect on their ability to meet those standards," he argues.

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