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Military Should Ban Tobacco Use, Experts Say

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The U.S. military should start working toward a complete ban on the use of tobacco products, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine, although the panel convened by the Defense and Veterans' departments acknowledged that such a ban would likely take two decades to implement.

Stars and Stripes reported July 1 that the Committee on Smoking Cessation in Military and Veteran Populations said the military needs to “close the pipeline of new tobacco users entering the military” and start cutting off tobacco supplies available to soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Researchers found that tobacco use has a profound impact on soldiers' health and readiness. More than 30 percent of service members smoke — far above the national average — and smokers were more likely than nonsmokers to drop out of basic training, have poor eyesight, quit within the first year of enlistment, get sick and miss work, the study said.

The panel said that smoking bans should begin with officer academies and in basic training, with enforcement via urinalysis. Sales of tobacco products be banned at Army and Air Force post exchange stores and supermarkets, just as they already have been at Navy and Marine commissaries, the study said.

“At the same time that tobacco results in high health care costs and productivity losses for [the Defense Department], the department earns substantial net revenues from the sale of tobacco products in military commissaries and exchanges,” the report noted.

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