A study commissioned by the Pentagon and Veteran Affairs recommends banning the product in phases over the next several years. Additionally, it suggests 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" – which means requiring all enlisting members to be tobacco-free, Army.com reports.
As the head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, Jack Smith told USA Today that he will be urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to adopt the proposals set forth by the study. It finds that tobacco use costs the Pentagon nearly $846 million each year. $6 billion is spent by the Department of Veteran Affairs on treating tobacco-related illnesses as well.
The Pentagon requested the study in 2007, according to Army.com. It found one in three service members currently use tobacco products, and that the heaviest smokers are in the Army and Marines. The study also found that tobacco use has risen since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, suggesting a direct correlation between combat and tobacco use.
Heavy smoking has been part of military culture for years. "The image of the battle-weary soldier in fatigues and helmet, fighting for his country, has frequently included his lit cigarette," the study says. A ban would mean fewer such associations, possibly changing the culture altogether, the study suggests.
Although tobacco use in the military is not encouraged, anti-tobacco advocate Kenneth Kizer told USA Today that such products are subsidized for troops. Much of the profits from their sale to troops go to recreation and family support programs.
If the proposals are adopted, tobacco products will not be sold at military commissaries. In addition, tobacco use would be banned on military property and tobacco use would be treated similarly to alcohol abuse and poor fitness, according to Army.com.