independent news and opnion

Raise the tobacco age to 21, no military exemptions

0 4


The surgeons general of the Air Force, Army, Navy and United States recently spoke with one voice about the threat of tobacco use among service members — a group with high smoking rates long targeted by tobacco companies.

The surgeons general encouraged the Department of Defense leadership to take definitive action, acknowledging the key role that laws and policies will have in curbing tobacco use in the military.

Inspired by their call, we recommend specific policy changes with tremendous potential impact:

 Passing a national “Tobacco 21” law prohibiting tobacco sales to people younger than 21.

 Implementing Tobacco 21 policies at military installations.

 Ending Tobacco 21 loopholes for 18- to 20-year-old military personnel in states such as Texas.

Considering Texas boasts our country’s second-largest military personnel population, the state should lead by example and remove its Tobacco 21 military exemption.

With data showing 95 percent of smokers take up the habit before they’re 21 years old, Tobacco 21 laws are growing in popularity. They are now on the books in 16 states, Washington, D.C., and 470 localities. Several bipartisan bills also have been introduced in Congress.

But to be truly effective, these laws should not exempt military service members. About half of service members enlist by age 20, and 38 percent of the servicemen and -women who smoke picked up the habit after enlisting. Military members are also one of the largest groups of tobacco users. Our study showed that nearly one-quarter of service members smoke and 10 percent use smokeless tobacco, compared with 20 percent and 6 percent of civilians, respectively. We also found that among new Air Force recruits, half of tobacco users use at least two tobacco products and e-cigarette use is on the rise.

Eliminating loopholes for military personnel younger than 21 would align with an already changing tide of military and Department of Veterans Affairs health-promotion activities. In 2016, the secretary of defense directed military departments to improve education on tobacco product harms and strengthen cessation programs, and called for new tobacco pricing given tobacco products have long been deeply discounted on military installations. Mirroring existing policy at some Department of Defense health care facilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs will ban tobacco use on its campuses this fall.

Some might argue that those willing to give their lives for their country should be able to choose whether to use tobacco.

However, the notion that 18- to 20-year-old service members’ purchase of tobacco is a freedom they’ve earned is a false narrative ignoring that military tobacco use has never truly been an informed choice due to decades of directed, targeted marketing. As one Lorillard Tobacco Co. document stated: “There isn’t a market in the country that has the sales potential for Newport like the military market.”

Smoking is taking a deadly toll. Tobacco use is blamed for 8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A study of 248,046 U.S. veterans found that 50 percent of cancer deaths among current smokers and 23 percent of cancer deaths among former smokers were attributable to cigarette smoking.

It is time to reverse this shameful history. Exempting the military from Tobacco 21 laws leaves the 17- to 20-year-old population of active-duty personnel ripe for targeting by Big Tobacco. We strongly urge the Department of Defense to adopt Tobacco 21 at all installations, lawmakers in localities and states such as Texas to remove military exemptions, and Congress to pass broad Tobacco 21 legislation.

Countering decadeslong promotion of tobacco products to military personnel by passing unequivocal policies that ban tobacco sales to all young people living in — and serving on — our shores would save lives, a profoundly patriotic act.

G. Wayne Talcott is a retired colonel who spent 27 years as an active-duty Air Force psychologist and is a professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Wilford Hall, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Katherine Hoerster is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Melissa Little is an associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Rebecca Krukowski is an associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.



Source link

You might also like

close
Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !