A Senate subcommittee July 15 approved a measure that eliminates the discount military members receive when they buy tobacco at the commissary or exchange.
Currently, tobacco products are discounted at about 25 percent compared to retailers off base, according to this news story on Military.com. And it's possible that they are discounted even more. While DoD policy calls for a price of 5 percent below the lowest price in the community, this 2013 study found discounts to be as much 73 percent compared to the nearest Walmart.
When it comes to their bodies, I firmly believe people should get to do whatever they think is right. If that means if you want to use tobacco, or smoke pot or drink yourself silly, go for it.
But that doesn't mean we should be encouraging unhealthy and expensive habits through discounts. Tobacco use is proven to reduce life span and fitness, and raise health care costs.
The Navy and Marine Corps have long tried to limit tobacco use by blocking some on base stores from selling it. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagle was recently reported as mulling blocking tobacco sales on bases and ships completely.
Maybe stores should still carry tobacco -- maybe. But we definitely shouldn't be making it easier to buy.
If you support military tobacco subsidies you might be thinking "by that logic we shouldn't be subsidizing alcohol or potato chips, either." And maybe you're right. Maybe we shouldn't. You won't hear any reasons out of me for keeping those extremely delicious but unhealthy kettle fried chips at the commissary, or the Class Six shelves stocked with all my favorite brews. (My mouth is watering as I write this).
The argument against tobacco products is so clear that there shouldn't even be any debate. The Defense Department estimates that they spend $1.6 billion annually treating tobacco related illnesses, all while not only allowing the very products causing the problem to be used, but making it affordable to do so.
If insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," then any attempt by the DoD to curb tobacco related illnesses without also getting rid of the source is just that -- insane.
According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) service members smoke tobacco at a rate 20 percent higher than civilians and use smokeless tobacco at a 400 percent higher rate.
My husband, an infantryman who has pulled many, many long nights (and is not a tobacco user), tells me that soldiers start using dip and other smokeless tobacco to help keep themselves awake.
And I get it -- I really do. If they want to dip and are aware of the risks, they should go for it. But they should not get to do so at a discount.
In an era where advocates are pushing to save our commissary grocery benefits and improve our healthcare while agreeing that some costs must be cut, it seems only logical to do what we can to get rid of a problem -- tobacco -- that only increases long term costs while lowering overall quality of life.