Hunter voices ‘strong opposition’ to possible Navy tobacco sale ban

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With the Navy seriously considering banning tobacco sales on its bases and ships, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran, is calling on Navy Sec. Ray Mabus to refocus its efforts.

“While I recognize the Navy believes removing tobacco products would help in ‘maximizing the readiness’ of sailors and Marines, it’s my belief that the Navy should worry less about intruding on the personal decision-making of these same sailors and Marines, while creating added burdens in the process,” the California congressman wrote Friday in a letter to Mabus obtained by The Daily Caller.

Hunter expressed his “strong opposition” to the idea.

“Instead, the Navy should focus on truly strengthening readiness through training, resources and management,” he added, questioning how such removal would even assist in preparing the Navy for future threats.

This week Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty confirmed to the Army Times that the Navy has been considering eliminating tobacco sales, but that there has not been a decision made yet.

Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Mabus, added that he “has implemented a number of initiatives to improve the culture of fitness in the Navy and Marine Corps, and curbing tobacco use is part of that improvement.”

According to Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, such a move is seen “more as a political decision, intended to make a point, than it is a decision that supports our sailors and Marines.”

“Having spent time around Marines and sailors through multiple deployments, I believe there are far more immediate priorities for the Navy and Marine Corps, all of which require your leadership and attention,” he wrote.

Hunter added that if the Navy were to go through with the plan, other service branches would likely follow.

In 2012, the Navy eliminated discounts for tobacco products at Navy and Marine exchanges. At the time, according to the Army Times, Mabus wrote that “Tobacco use is the most avoidable public health hazard in the Navy and Marine Corps.”

More recently the Defense Department had service members submit videos discouraging tobacco use and had the public vote on a favorite.

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