Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released new policies to raise the price of tobacco on military installations and enlarge smoke-free areas.
The policy was issued April 8, and the goal is to equalize the price of tobacco on and off military bases, since tobacco sold on bases is not taxed, Reuters reports.
For servicemembers who smoke on a semi-regular basis, the change will be massive, and the change will be coming soon. Right now, defense officials are meeting together to decide the best way to implement Carter’s guidance.
The decision to raise tobacco prices was applauded by the American Lung Association as a step forward.
“The American Lung Association urges the DOD to follow all of the steps outlined in the Institute of Medicine’s Combatting Tobacco Use in Military and Veterans Populations to ultimately phase out tobacco use in the military, which will be a win-win for health and spending,” Harold P. Wimmer, president and CEO told Reuters.
While the military formerly encouraged smoking to calm soldiers down, research since then has shown it impacts productivity and causes serious respiratory problems. Tobacco is estimated to cost the military $1.6 billion every year, and the Department of Defense has calculated continued use in the services will result in 175,000 deaths.
Carter was presented with the aforementioned two options in 2015 by an advisory committee. As a result of pre-existing efforts to reduce tobacco consumption, the sale of cigarettes has been steadily declining, though a 2011 survey by the DOD found that 49.2 percent of servicemembers had used a nicotine product in the last 12 months. The Marine Corps uses tobacco products at 30.8 percent, which is the highest rate. The Army then comes in second at 26.7 percent, followed by the Navy at 24.4 percent and the Air Force at 16.7 percent.
Both the Air Force and Navy have recommended banning tobacco altogether, though Congress has pushed back, mandating the sale of tobacco products at military installations.
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