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Ban Tobacco and I'll Still Mail It

Urged on by members of the Senate, Defense Secretary Hagel is busy mulling over whether the military should quit selling tobacco products in Exchanges or on ships.

His reasoning? No one thinks tobacco is good for you anymore.

True enough. The Center for Disease Control confirms that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death.

Still, you can count on me to creep out to the post office to send secret packages of illicit cigars to my husband on a ship. If the guy writes me and wants to start dipping again, by golly I will be heading out to the 7-Eleven to fulfill his Copenhagen dream.

Why would I do that? Why can’t I join in the dream of a tobacco-free veteran population marked by less cancer, less heart disease, lower Tricare costs and no tobacco in Exchanges?

Because my sailor is not a Sim avatar. Neither is any other Marine, airman, soldier or Coastie I have ever met.

These folks signed up to protect and defend their country. They didn’t sign up for a science fair project or a video game in which their every trip to the kitchen, bathroom or hookah is determined by the holder of the Great Controller in the Sky.

Does anyone still believe if people just had the right information or if we just controlled their environment that perfect health habits would appear in all people?

Controlling the environment doesn’t create perfect people. It creates squirrelly people (ask the folks that repealed Prohibition).

Because people -- even the ones who wear a uniform -- are still going to be people. They are going to be flawed in the ways that people are flawed.

They are going to have bad habits. They are going to make questionable choices -- especially when they are tired or sad or worn out or bored or anxious. They are not Sims with the free will button turned off.

Cut the smokes to service members and I bet those same feelings turn into a rush on the candy and soda machines on the mess decks. A stockpiling of Doritos. A stampede at the ice cream machine.

While I appreciate the concern for the health of the troops (and the rest of us who live and work and shop and park on bases around the world), cutting something like tobacco sales doesn’t seem like caring in the current political environment.

Instead, that kind of cut seems like controlling the itty bitty because controlling the things that are big (the budget, the economy, world peace) seems overwhelming.

These men and women in uniform are people that we trust with weapons. We count on them to use their judgment in the most serious of all situations.

They will figure out the tobacco thing as Americans, as citizens, as people. Not as members of a uniformed population whose lives become more controlled and confined every day.

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