Put Out That Cigarette, Soldier!

The Department of Defense is considering a ban on smoking in military

The men and women of the military who fight for our freedom might no longer be free to light up. A study recommends that the government crack down on tobacco in military facilities.

Soldiers and Marines who have been deployed in combat are far more likely to use tobacco than those who are not fighting and there are serious health effects to smoking, according to a report the Institute of Medicine published in June.

The Pentagon and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs commissioned the study, "Combating Tobacco in Military and Veteran Populations," which went on for two years and calls for phasing out tobacco.

The study could have an impact in Groton, where there is a Navy base.

“I don’t think they should be telling me I can’t smoke on a lunch break, as long as I’m in a designated area,” Petty Officer Mike Argenio, who is stationed there, told the Norwich Bulletin.

Some of the reasons for the crackdown plan are that smoking soldiers are less physically fit and don’t see and hear as well as other soldiers, according to the study.

Tobacco use also contributes to serious health problems, which can be costly to the government, according to the Institute of Medicine.

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs spend more than $1.6 billion per year for medical care related to tobacco, hospitalizations and missed days of work, according to the study. 

The Department of Defense sells tobacco products to soldiers at a discount and the study calls for the DOD to stop selling tobacco products at commissaries and exchanges, or at least stop offering discounts. The Institute of Medicine recommends stopping tobacco sales on military installations and treat tobacco use the same way it treats alcohol abuse and poor physical fitness.    

Officials from the Groton sub base said they follow strict Navy smoking policies. Most buildings on the base are smoke-free and all designated smoking areas are at least 50 feet from government buildings.

Howard Koh, a New Haven native who is assistant secretary in the Health and Human Services Department, had a role in the report. He was a member of the Committee on Smoking Cessation in Military and Veteran Populations until he resigned in March. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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