and veterans across the board. Politicians should take careful note of vaping and eLiquid regulation by learning more about accessible alternatives for smoking cessation for our troops. If they would just focus on how smoking impacts service members and veterans specifically by limiting successful means to minimizing tobacco usage, we would all be better off in the short and long term.
Due to this disproportionate impact, lack of access to products that aid in smoking cessation is not just a public health issue, but also a national concern of security. The fact is that the number of military personnel who smoke remains significantly higher than that of the civilian population which makes our military incapable of performing at optimal health. According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, U.S. troops who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been reported to smoke at twice the rate of civilians. Veterans of the U.S. military are also twice as likely to be lifelong smokers than their civilian counterparts.
The United States military has of course an interesting and unique history with tobacco. Beginning in world war one cigarettes were provided to soldiers with their rations, causing many service members to likely become addicted to smoking. Tobacco companies stated that smoking was a way for troops to escape stressful circumstances and improve morale and solidarity. In spite of increasing evidence over the next half a century that combustible smoking was damaging to peoples health the military continued to include cigarettes in rations until 1975.
Although cigarettes are no longer provided directly to service members, the United States Department of Defense is still paying for the impact of its relationship with the tobacco industry. Our tax dollars have funded billions of dollars in direct health care costs for service members and veterans as a result of smoking related issues. Having healthy troops means increased readiness for combat and that requires having access to tobacco-alternatives. Even when we as individuals don’t support military action or any kind of war, we will still support the troops. Therefore anything that aids active duty service members and military veterans to quit smoking in order to live longer healthier lives should be encouraged.
Sherman Gillums, the chief advocacy officer at AMVETS, stated: “In a perfect world, no one would smoke tobacco in any form” He continues; “now that e-cigarettes, an arguably less potent alternatives are widely available, I expect to see better health outcomes over time."
However, Gillums’ expectation regarding better health outcomes cannot be realized if any of the FDA's proposed regulations related to e-cigarettes and eLiquids come to pass that end up restricting access to military and veterans. It's no mystery that smokers buy cigarettes where it is most convenient. If we want to encourage people to quit, the same products that will enable them to do so must also be conveniently available in the same locations where they can buy combustible smokes.
We would all benefit from continuing the conversation about viable alternatives to smoking, particularly those such as e-cigarettes that have already proven an effective step towards quitting, rather than jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions that results in banning vaping products outright.