U.S. News


Congress 'Mulling Over' Military Smoking Ban

The proposed ban has been controversial, with many saying members of the military are already making huge sacrifices.
Posted at 4:58 PM, Oct 08, 2014

The idea of banning the sale of tobacco products in the military, first floated back in March, now seems to be gaining speed. 

The idea's gone between sparking outrage and being ignored in the months since the Pentagon first ordered a review of tobacco use by members of the armed forces. (Video via U.S. Senate)

In a press conference in March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said"The costs, health care costs, are astounding. Well over a billion dollars, just in the Department of Defense, on tobacco-related illness and health care."

Most of the recent noise is surrounding a Politico article, simply titled "Up in smoke," which says Congress and the Defense Department are "mulling over" the ban, although it doesn't list any specific new developments in the story, other than the review should be out in November. 

In the interim, some battle lines — so to speak — have been drawn up over the issue, pitting politicians against high-ranking military officials.

One outspoken critic of the potential ban is Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CALIF.) VIA C-SPAN: "We've had interference, from the secretary of the navy and others who think that guys like me, when we serve in the Marine Corps, they're going to tell us we can't buy soda, we can't buy chewing tobacco, we can't buy beer. ... We don't want that to happen."

Hunter, a veteran himself, proposed an amendment to a spending bill earlier this year that would counteract any potential tobacco ban, at least through 2015. 

Nevertheless, no such ban has actually been proposed yet, and it's not clear whether the review would even result in any type of action. 

Among the top brass, opinions are mixed on the potential ban, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made clear, arguing service members shouldn't be denied amenities like tobacco, given all they sacrifice. (Video via PBS

And Stars and Stripes, which operates from within the Pentagon but calls itself independent, argued in an op-ed, "Congressional efforts to limit or even stop men and women in the military from smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products could create a major morale problem for front-line troops."

The issue of banning tobacco actually came up some five years ago when a study recommended a ban, but military officials at the time said there were no plans to go through with it.  

This video includes images from Getty Images.