U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and four of his Democratic colleagues are urging Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to ban the sale of tobacco products at naval bases and aboard ships.
\”[W]e applaud your ongoing efforts to help our sailors and Marines break nicotine addiction and avoid the life-long health complications and deaths associated with tobacco use,\’\’ states the senators said in a letter to Mabus. \”We urge you to do everything in your capacity to address this issue for our military men and women, including moving forward with the proposal to stop the sale of tobacco aboard all naval bases and ships.\”
In addition to Blumenthal, the signatories are Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The Navy is currently considering enacting the type of ban Blumenthal and the others are pressing for.
In their letter, the senators cite the cost incurred by the federal government of treating tobacco-related health problems.
\”While annual profits from all Department of Defense-authorized military tobacco sales are roughly $90 million, a DOD report from June 2009 estimated that the annual tobacco-related military health costs and lost productivity are about $1.9 billion, or 21 times greater than the annual sales,\’\’ the letter states. \”While smoking rates among active-duty military have decreased in the past few decades—similar to the trends that we are seeing in the civilian population—DOD should do more to lower the smoking rates among active-duty military.\”
A defense department study found sharply higher smoking rates — 30.6 percent — among members of the U.S. military than for the American public as a whole — 20.6 percent.
\”Wide availability could contribute to the fact that nearly half of all smokers surveyed had attempted to quit but were unsuccessful,\’\’ the letter states. \”Several factors purportedly contribute to high smoking rates such as stress relief and the desire to relax or calm down. The Department should ensure that adequate support is always available to personnel seeking to quit tobacco use, including the existing effort to offer tobacco cessation products and services.\”