Smoking is widely known to be the leading cause of lung cancer, and is a major contributory factor in premature death and disease in this country. John R. Seffrin from the American Cancer Society has said that limiting access to tobacco products and smoking areas has a “direct effect on reduced smoking rates, especially among youth.” It’s no secret that members of the armed forces are partial to lighting up from time to time, but soon that could be a thing of the past, as the Navy has revealed plans to ban the sale of tobacco on all U.S. Naval bases and ships.
This is just one option currently being considered by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in an effort to improve the troops’ health, fitness, and to ensure that they are “ready” for operations and exercises. However, Mabus seems to have forgotten that their jobs themselves are the biggest dangers to their health, so trying to minimize one of the smaller risks does seem a little futile. And, not unexpectedly, the plans to restrict sales of tobacco on Naval ships and bases is supported by the American Medical Association, to name just one of many organizations.
It’s Been on the Horizon
This isn’t the first move the Navy has made in order to tighten up the rules to do with smoking. For 2 decades it has been made more and more difficult for smokers to indulge, as smoking breaks are no longer allowed. Special areas designated just for smoking have been set up in order to keep the activity away from non-smokers, as passive smoking is also believed to affect people’s health. Just 4 years ago, smoking in submarines was also banned.
Price subsidies on tobacco products have already been abolished, so the low-price incentive no longer has the same effect, although prices at Naval exchanges are only required to be similar to the “most competitive” prices at civilian outlets.
“At what point do we stop dictating what people can and can’t do and let grown men and women make their own choices?”
Implementing such changes will have a significant impact on the Navy Exchange Service Command’s income and profits, which are used to fund welfare programs and recreational activities for those stationed elsewhere. This means that not only will those in the force not be able to buy the products to smoke as they so choose, but the provisions to improve their morale the Navy’s way will be reduced, as well.
Currently, almost a quarter of those in the military smoke, compared to only 20% of civilians. Every one of these people, whether in the military or not, has the same basic human rights in terms of choice, so it seems bizarre that this choice is being limited for members of the Navy. It is rumored that once these changes take hold, the other branches of the military will follow suit.
There is no doubt that these plans will improve the overall health of the Navy, but it does beg the question: where will it end? If tobacco is banned, will they end up banning alcohol, too? At what point do we stop dictating what people can and can’t do and let grown men and women make their own choices?