Mother Jones has an interesting take on a story I posted about a few weeks ago, when a proposal to ban tobacco sales on military bases fizzled.
Mother Jones writes:
Suppose you wanted to quit drinking, but all the AA meetings in your town were held in the back of a bar with $2 well drinks?
That’s basically the conundrum the US military faces when it comes to regulating tobacco. Smoking is a drain on the force, physically and financially, and over the years the brass has implemented all sorts of efforts to get soldiers and sailors to avoid it, with some success. But every time military officials make a move to stop offering cheap cigarettes to their personnel, they get shot down by the tobacco industry’s allies in Congress. In the latest skirmish, earlier this month, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee launched a preemptive strike to prevent the Navy from ending tobacco sales on Navy and Marine bases and ships.
One thing to remember, not only are tobacco products available on military bases and ships … they’re considerably cheaper than what you find in civilian retail outlets because when tobacco products are sold on military bases, the local and state taxes don’t apply. Seven times, advocates have attempted to have the prices on military bases raised to civilian levels and seven times, they’ve failed, thanks to Big Tobacco lobbying and Big Tobacco allies in Congress. Another study showed that the average civilian price of Marlboro Reds is $6.73 a pack, while on military bases, it’s $4.99 a pack, nearly 30 percent lower.
According to Mother Jones, 36 percent of men aged 45-54 in the military smoke, compared to 24 percent of nonmilitary men in that same age group.
All of this puffing amounts to a massive medical bill, not just for the men and women dying horrible deaths from cancer and heart disease and emphysema, but for the taxpayers, too. In his letter to the Navy, (Rep. Duncan) Hunter, R-Calif. (a proponent of tobacco sales on military bases), noted that banning tobacco sales would mean a loss of profits for the Military Exchange Command. In reality, cigarettes are a net loss for the military. For every dollar of profit from selling tobacco to personnel, according to data from a 1996 Inspector General’s report, the Pentagon spent more than nine dollars on healthcare and lost productivity.