Trying to stop smoking in the military

The men and women in our military, for various understandable reasons, smoke quite a bit more than the general public.  So our government has been launching campaigns of both persuasion and coercion to make our troops stop using tobacco.

Whatever you think of the controversy, you have to appreciate this quotation from a Marine:  ” “We sleep in the dirt for this country. We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy.”

From Walter Pincus, Some lawmakers worry about troops smoking, but Defense officials warn them to go easy – The Washington Post:

In 1985, all military smoking was at 47 percent. It’s dropped to 30 percent. However, as the March 14 memo states, “An estimated 175,000 current active duty service members . . . will die from smoking unless we can help them quit.”

Durbin pointed out that the rate of smoking among the military is 20 percent higher than the overall U.S. civilian rate and that service members’ use of smokeless tobacco has gone up to more than 400 percent higher than the U.S. average.

“One out of three members of the military who use tobacco today say they started after they enlisted,” Durbin added.

The last major military smoking study, requested by the Pentagon in 2007 and completed by the Institute of Medicine in 2009, found that “smoking rates among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be 50 percent higher than rates among nondeployed military personnel.”

The institute’s study said, “Current cigarette use in the military is more likely among men, those who are white, have less than a college education, are younger than 34 years old, and are enlisted versus officers.”

In 2005, smoking rates for 18-to-25-year-old military men was high at 42.2 percent, although it varied by service, with the Army and Marines being highest, and the Air Force the lowest.

In short, smoking is highest with those most likely to be involved in fighting on the ground. A 2008 study found that “smoking rates increased by 57 percent among those deployed and by 44 percent among those not deployed.”

Last March, when Stars and Stripes carried a story about Navy Secretary Ray Mabus considering a ban on all tobacco sales on ships and bases, the comments received previewed what could come if more actions are taken.

“THIS IS OUT OF CONTROL!!!!,” wrote one ex-Marine. “When I was sitting in a bunker in Vietnam at 0400, a cigarette gave me comfort and pleasure. OH!!!! It is not good to get lung cancer but a sucking chest wound is???”

Dempsey was more diplomatic: Because smoking is legal, taking more steps to halt it “is an issue for the broader Congress of the United States, not uniquely for the United States military.”

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine Reserve major with three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has already acted. He argued at one point: “We sleep in the dirt for this country. We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy.”


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  • harleyrider1978

    Judge doesnt accept statistical studies as proof of LC causation!

    It was McTear V Imperial Tobacco. Here is the URL for both my summary and the Judge’s ‘opinion’ (aka ‘decision’):

    (2.14) Prof Sir Richard Doll, Mr Gareth Davies (CEO of ITL). Prof James Friend and
    Prof Gerad Hastings gave oral evidence at a meeting of the Health Committee in
    2000. This event was brought up during the present action as putative evidence that
    ITL had admitted that smoking caused various diseases. Although this section is quite
    long and detailed, I think that we can miss it out. Essentially, for various reasons, Doll
    said that ITL admitted it, but Davies said that ITL had only agreed that smoking might
    cause diseases, but ITL did not know. ITL did not contest the public health messages.
    (2.62) ITL then had the chance to tell the Judge about what it did when the suspicion
    arose of a connection between lung cancer and smoking. Researchers had attempted
    to cause lung cancer in animals from tobacco smoke, without success. It was right,
    therefore, for ITL to ‘withhold judgement’ as to whether or not tobacco smoke caused
    lung cancer.

    [9.10] In any event, the pursuer has failed to prove individual causation.
    Epidemiology cannot be used to establish causation in any individual case, and the
    use of statistics applicable to the general population to determine the likelihood of
    causation in an individual is fallacious. Given that there are possible causes of lung
    cancer other than cigarette smoking, and given that lung cancer can occur in a nonsmoker,
    it is not possible to determine in any individual case whether but for an
    individual’s cigarette smoking he probably would not have contracted lung cancer
    (paras.[6.172] to [6.185]).
    [9.11] In any event there was no lack of reasonable care on the part of ITL at any
    point at which Mr McTear consumed their products, and the pursuer’s negligence
    case fails. There is no breach of a duty of care on the part of a manufacturer, if a
    consumer of the manufacturer’s product is harmed by the product, but the consumer
    knew of the product’s potential for causing harm prior to consumption of it. The
    individual is well enough served if he is given such information as a normally
    intelligent person would include in his assessment of how he wishes to conduct his
    life, thus putting him in the position of making an informed choice (paras.[7.167] to

  • Seems like a good move to me.
    Smoking ought to be discouraged everywhere.

  • Steve Bauer