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Report: VA and U.S. Bases Should Quit Tobacco

July 13, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia's many military bases should go smoke-free, according to a new report by the federal Institute of Medicine. It supports the idea of a tobacco-free military, citing the huge financial burden smokers have become to the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Physician Ken Kizer is one of its authors of the report. He says that tobacco not only costs the country millions of dollars for health care, but the habit also impairs the country's military readiness.

"Tobacco has adverse effects on attention and night vision; it increases the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents; and if you happen to get injured, wounds don't heal as well among those who smoke."

The report makes a number of recommendations on how to gradually phase in a ban on tobacco use in the military, Kizer says. There are more than 20 military installations in Virginia, including the Pentagon, Langley Air Force Base, the Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Naval Station at Norfolk, which is the largest naval installation in the world.

In 2005, according to the report, 32 percent of active-duty personnel and 22 percent of veterans were smokers, and rates among active-duty soldiers have increased since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, Army and Air Force commissaries sell tobacco products but Navy and Marine Corps locations do not. Those who don't want tobacco banned point out that the profits from tobacco sales help pay for recreation and family programs on military bases.

Kizer notes that a smoking ban would take up to 20 years to fully implement, but at least the report includes suggestions to get started.

"We could begin by eliminating the sale, at discounted prices, of tobacco products at base commissaries, and by making the military worksite tobacco-free."

The report, "Combating Tobacco Use in Military and Veteran Populations," is available from National Academies Press by calling (202)334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or online at

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA