USAT's Pathetic Pic At Story About Proposed Military Tobacco Ban

Call it "Yankee Imperialist Corrupts Impressionable Iraqi Youth":

Am I supposed to believe that USA Today had no other more relevant pictures they could have used? The fact that they went back to an AP file photo from 2007 is pretty strong evidence that USAT's page-fillers were looking to make a point.

Here are selected paragraphs from the related report by Greg Zoroya:

Pentagon health experts are urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ban the use of tobacco by troops and end its sale on military property, a change that could dramatically alter a culture intertwined with smoking.

Jack Smith, head of the Pentagon's office of clinical and program policy, says he will recommend that Gates adopt proposals by a federal study that cites rising tobacco use and higher costs for the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs as reasons for the ban.

The study by the Institute of Medicine, requested by the VA and Pentagon, calls for a phased-in ban over a period of years, perhaps up to 20. "We'll certainly be taking that recommendation forward," Smith says.

A tobacco ban would confront a military culture, the report says, in which "the image of the battle-weary soldier in fatigues and helmet, fighting for his country, has frequently included his lit cigarette."

Also, the report said, troops worn out by repeated deployments often rely on cigarettes as a "stress reliever." The study found that tobacco use in the military increased after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Far be it from me to deny soldiers risking their lives for their country a bit of stress relief. But apparently the perfumed princes at the Pentagon can't put themselves in the shoes of combat soldiers and imagine that for some of them a smoke break might be a useful tonic in very difficult situations.

Besides, a graphic at the USAT's story shows that tobacco use by all veterans, at 22%, is barely higher than that of the entire population's 20%. And guess what? If you take into account the fact that men greatly outnumber women in both the active military and veterans' ranks, that 2% difference probably disappears. This American Lung Association Fact Sheet estimates that 17.4% of women smoke. So it appears that smoking is no more of a problem in the military than it is in the country as a whole.

So what's the point? I'll leave that to readers to think through and perhaps comment upon.

Cross-posted at

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