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DOD, VA should take stronger steps to combat tobacco use in military, veteran populations
Date:6/26/2009

WASHINGTON -- Because tobacco use impairs military readiness, harms the health of soldiers and veterans, and imposes a substantial financial burden on the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, these agencies should implement a comprehensive strategy to achieve the Defense Department's stated goal of a tobacco-free military, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. DOD should gradually phase in a ban on tobacco use in the military, starting at military academies and officer training programs and among new recruits, the report says. DOD should also stop selling tobacco products in Army and Air Force commissaries -- Navy and Marine Corps commissaries already do not sell them -- and should stop selling them at a discount in military exchanges and other stores. In addition, Congress should allow VA to establish tobacco-free medical centers.

The report was requested by DOD and VA, who 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 says. 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.

"We found that the adverse effects of tobacco use on military readiness, the health of both smokers and nonsmokers, 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," said Stuart Bondurant, professor of medicine and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "The state of the art in tobacco control is such that with well-managed p
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Contact: Sara Frueh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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