Pressure is emerging in the Pentagon to ban smoking by soldiers and prohibit the sale of tobacco on military bases.
Those steps were urged in a study for the Defense Department by the Institute of Medicine.
Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, says he will recommend to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the proposals be adopted, USA Today reports.
The study says that tobacco use costs the Pentagon $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity. The report estimates that 37 percent of soldiers use tobacco.
With smoking long enmeshed in military culture, it is hard to imagine a ban will actually be implemented or be obeyed if it is indeed adopted.
Stars and Stripes newspaper points out that the Institute of Medicine study says it would take 20 years to complete a ban.
Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told USA Today that the Pentagon favors a tobacco-free military "and believes it is achievable." She declined to discuss the idea of a ban.
Ties between the military and tobacco date back to the early 1900s, according to Tobacco Control Journal.
Cigarette ads praising soldiers permeated radio shows and magazines during World War II. Some of the commercials even included doctors extolling the virtues of specific cigarette brands. Soldiers were given cigarettes as part of their K-rations and C-rations.
The military itself subsidizes troops’ purchase of cigarettes at base exchanges and commissaries, Kenneth Kizer, who designed California's anti-tobacco program, tells USA Today.
The new study points out that "the image of the battle-weary soldier in fatigues and helmet, fighting for his country, has frequently included his lit cigarette," USA Today reports.
The Institute of Medicine report also notes that soldiers utilize cigarettes as a "stress reliever." It says troops started using more tobacco after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan broke out.
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