Military to Implement More Tobacco Restrictions

According to a defense spokeswoman, an advisory committee will present two options for discouraging tobacco use to the Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Those options are to raise tobacco prices and expand tobacco-free zones on military bases.

There is not yet an estimate on how high prices could go on military bases. Defense spokeswoman Laura Seal states that one option considered is “matching the average price paid for tobacco.”

There has been a recent change in the law that states prices for tobacco can not be any lower than the lowest price in surrounding civilian communities for said product. The new law does not set a ceiling for how high prices on tobacco can go, unlike the last policy. An Air Force official states that the Defense Department will need to determine the ceiling. This policy was already active for the Navy and Marine Corps outlets, but was implemented by the USAF and Army on January 19th, 2015.

The Air Force has already implemented measures to expand the amount of tobacco-free zones. Tobacco use is no longer permitted in recreation facilities which include bowling alleys, beaches, parks, basketball courts and golf courses. Smoking is also prohibited in vehicles on USAF medical campuses and when a child under 14 years of age is in the car.

In March 2014, the Navy was on track to completely eradicate tobacco sales on Naval and Marine Corps bases, but was put on hold after defense officials ordered a review of policies.

Air Force Col. (Dr.) John Oh, chief of health promotion for the Air Force Medical Support Agency, stated, ‘in the Air Force, we’re committed to promoting tobacco-free living throughout. We’re not waiting for direction from the DoD [Department of Defense]. We’ll continue to push forward. We’re not doing anything in the Air Force that isn’t being done elsewhere.” He also said, “we’re following many of the practices that have been shown to be effective.” The policies for tobacco are a part of a strategy to help improve the health and fitness of airmen, their families, and also retirees.

Oh says the recommendations are based in science – if there are more tobacco-free and high tobacco prices, the use and purchase of tobacco will decrease. He also states that having cheap tobacco in military exchanges sends a mixed message. “If it’s so important to have tobacco-free living, why do we have cheap tobacco in the exchanges?”

An order to take a full look at tobacco policies was enacted last year by defense officials, and the target date for the services to recommend changes was the end 2014. A DoD memo in March 2014 encouraged the services to eliminate tobacco sales and use on military bases. The DoD did not order specific actions. Jessica Wright, then-undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs signed the memo that stated, “structural reforms in how and where we allow tobacco purchases to be made; as well as the need to consider tobacco-free installations, are all matters that require our near-term attention.’

They also noted that tobacco use cost the DoD an estimated $1.6 billion a year for medical expenses and work time that was lost. Officials used a statistic that states half of all smokers will die from a related complication, which amounts to 175,000 current active-duty members dying from complications.

Meanwhile in March, lawmakers stopped the Department of Defense from banning the sale of tobacco on bases completely and included a provision in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the DoD from doing such.

Countermarketing is another strategy used to provide information on the diverse effects of smoking, like using the website www.ucanquit2.org. The DoD is also working to improve access to tobacco-cessation products.

Smoking in the workplace has been banned from military installations for about 20 years and tobacco sales have been on a steady decline on military bases. The date for when the new tobacco options will be presented to the defense secretary by the Defense Advisory Committee of Tobacco has not yet been established.

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Source: Military Times