June 29, 2009

Military advises to ban tobacco gradually

The U.S. Department of Defense should phase in a tobacco ban in the military, beginning at military academies, an Institute of Medicine report said.

The report, requested by the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, asked the Institute of Medicine to identify policies and practices that could lower rates of smoking and help soldiers and veterans quit.

Tobacco use reduces soldiers' physical fitness and endurance and is linked to higher rates of absenteeism and lost productivity, the report said.

In 2005, 32 percent of active-duty personnel and 22 percent of veterans were smokers. Rates among active-duty personnel have recently increased -- possibly because of growing tobacco use by deployed troops -- the report said.

We found that the adverse effects of tobacco use on military readiness, the health of both smokers and non-smokers and the financial cost of the medical care of smoking-related illness in military and veteran populations are a sound basis for moving systematically toward a tobacco-free military, Stuart Bondurant, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and chairman of the committee that wrote the report, said in a statement.

All DOD and VA healthcare providers should be able to provide brief counseling and nicotine-replacement therapy to patients, the report said. The VA and DOD should develop toll-free quitlines to provide military personnel and veterans with counseling on quitting tobacco.