Military considers banning tobacco use and sales on bases and ships
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
The United States Military is considering banning tobacco sales and use on all bases and ships.
Secretary of State Chuck Hagel announced Monday that he supports a force-wide review of the ban, citing military health care costs and veteran health concerns associated with tobacco.
East Texas veterans are in disbelief.
"It's been a culture since the beginning," says Michael Beck, a Marine Corps veteran and volunteer coordinator at The Green Zone in Tyler.
Beck doesn't smoke, but knows sailors who he says would do almost anything for tobacco, "When the dippers would run out of dip on ship, they took cigarettes, broke the cigarettes apart and dipped with the tobacco from the cigarettes."
Not a healthy practice, but Beck says tobacco is used to unwind.
"You see a lot of things in combat. If guys don't have a chance just to relax and get their mind off of things, you're creating more problems."
That's not how Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sees it. "The health care costs are astounding, well over a billion dollars, just in the Department of Defense, on tobacco-related illness and health care. Now, the dollars are one thing, but the health of your people, I don't know if you put a price tag on that," Hagel says.
Beck says, "The benefits would be physical fitness. A stronger, healthier, fighting unit," but knows military members will be able to buy tobacco anywhere off base.
He is curious to know what Hagel's review of the ban will uncover, but believes there are bigger issues at hand, "In all honesty, with everything that's going on ... why this?"
The Navy is reportedly moving forward with plans to eliminate tobacco sales on all of its bases and ships. This would also apply to marine corp facilities.