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Officials Won’t Ban Tobacco for Deployed Troops, Morrell Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2009 – While the Defense Department fully supports the goal of a tobacco-free military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made it clear he does not plan to restrict tobacco use among troops in war zones.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Gates has yet to see a report commissioned by the Defense Department that proposes a ban on smoking in the military.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine completed a study last month, which reportedly recommends strict controls to limit new users from entering the military and to curtail use among those already serving.

The report notes that the Defense Department and the services have worked hard to become tobacco-free. The services have banned use of tobacco products during basic training and they have launched extensive public-education campaigns and commander training.

Morrell said the secretary is likely to consider some of the report’s recommendations, but none that ban tobacco use among deployed forces.

“[Gates] has been very clear to me up front that one of the things he is not prepared to do is to restrict use of tobacco products in combat zones,” he said.

“We are fighting two wars right now using a force that we are demanding more of than we ever have before,” Morrell said. “They are under enormous stress and strain, and the secretary does not want to compound that stress by taking away one of the few outlets they may have to relieve that stress.”

The secretary shares the concerns of those who prepared the report about the health and well-being of the force and understands the administration’s goal of a smoke-free America, Morrell said.

“Obviously, it is not our preference to have a force that is using tobacco products,” he said.

Morrell noted the enormous cost to the department in terms of health care. “By some estimates, it costs us nearly a billion dollars a year in tobacco-related health problems,” he said.

The Defense Department fully supports the goal of a tobacco-free military, 

according to Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith, and officials believe it's

achievable through development and execution of a comprehensive plan as

recommended by the report. "However," she added, "achieving that goal will

in part depend on coincident reductions of tobacco use in the civilian

population."

The department has been at the forefront of tobacco-cessation efforts, she said. Officials recently launched the "Quit Tobacco - Make Everyone Proud" campaign at http://www.ucanquit2.org. It targets young enlisted men and women who use tobacco.

The Web site provides information, resources, interactive tools and practical help. Servicemembers who want to quittobacco can get immediate help from a trained tobacco-cessation coach from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST every day.

Contact Author

Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Report Urges Timeline for Tobacco-free Military



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