They fight for our freedom…can we let them be free?
Ban smoking in the military? No way, say many troops
By: DEB RIECHMANN – AP
08/30/09 12:05 AM EDT
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, IRAQ — Gen. Douglas MacArthur had his signature corncob pipe. Soldiers got cigarettes in their C-rations during World War II. Even today, America’s war on tobacco seems to have largely bypassed the military.
Now a proposal to make the forces smoke-free is drawing strong reactions from troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the Pentagon itself says any ban is a long way off.
The troops’ fears — and, in some cases, hopes — were triggered by a study commissioned by the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department that recommends moving toward a tobacco-free military, perhaps in about 20 years.
“Your nerves get all rattled and you need something to calm you down,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Benson of San Bernadino, California, with the 5th Stryker Brigade in southern Afghanistan.
Benson, a tall, thin redhead with a buzz cut, said his first attempt to quit smoking was foiled by stress from a roadside bombing in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates seems to agree.