Time's Thompson Gripes That U.S. Law Requires Navy Ship Exchanges to Sell Tobacco

Given the sacrifices that U.S. sailors and Marines make to serve our country, it hardly seems right to me to force them to go for months on end aboard surface ships without the right to light up a smoke.

But I'm not Mark Thompson.

Today the Time magazine staffer dusted off a convenient but recently-ignored liberal media bogeyman, Big Tobacco:

While the Navy has banned smoking on submarines, it can't do that aboard surface ships, where most of its sailors go to sea. That because, according to this fascinating article in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the tobacco industry convinced Congress to mandate the availability of the cancer sticks aboard ships. In other words, tobacco must be sold on ships -- it's the law. The corollary: the Navy can't stop selling cigarettes aboard, something it has been trying to do for decades, without Congress changing the law.


No surprise here: it was collusion between the tobacco industry and lawmakers from tobacco-friendly states -- puffing on Big Tobacco's campaign contributions -- that made this happen 17 years ago:


The [relevant] amendment did not contain obviously pro-tobacco language, but merely revised the applicable section to replace the word ‘‘may'' with ‘‘shall,'' thus reading: ‘‘(c) Items Sold. -- Merchandise sold by ship stores afloat shall include items in the following categories...'' and listed ‘‘tobacco products'' as one among many items that must be made available.


Almost as insidious as small-cell carcinoma.

Meanwhile, in 2006, Senate appropriators decried tobacco use by service personnel. Smoking has been growing among members of the military, and plays a role in the Defense Department's skyrocketing health-care costs. "Tobacco use costs the Department of Defense hundreds of millions of dollars every year in medical costs and lost productivity," they wrote in their report accompanying the 2007 defense-spending bill. "The Committee urges the Department to expedite the availability of tobacco use prevention and cessation programs to all personnel."


Is this a great country, or what?

But Department of the Navy guidelines from 2008 require that "all tobacco use areas shall prominently display tobacco use warnings and availability of tobacco cessation programs, that "[a]ccess to tobacco treatment should be as easy as purchasing tobacco products" and that "[c]are must be taken to encourage tobacco cessation without coercion for personnel to enter these programs."
In other words the Navy's policy is to encourage smoking cessation but not to seek to coerce sailors and Marines to quit smoking.
Isn't that a prudent course of action given both the immense responsibility our sailors and Marines shoulder and the respect they deserve by our nation's leadership to be treated as adults, not as guinea pigs of a nanny state?
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