Veterans speak out against raising the age of tobacco use to 21 – By Julio Rosas (Washington Examiner) / May 23 2019
Military members often joke that they, particularly the lower enlisted, are held together by caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and more alcohol. If a new bill proposed in the Senate becomes law, service members younger than 21 would lose access to their cigarettes and cans of dip.
The bill proposed to raise the age of tobacco use to 21 was introduced by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine. It does not have an exemption for members in the military.
Some veterans who spoke to the Washington Examiner said that the bill is not just a dumb idea, but an insult, because 18-year-olds can enlist in the military and take on very dangerous jobs.
“It is incredible to think you can get smoked by a terrorist but won’t be able to smoke a Marlboro Red if this passes,” Marine Corps veteran Kyle Gunn, a nonsmoker, said.
“Instead of preventing our young adults from making life-altering decisions, we should be preparing them to make these decisions. Whether it be smoking or military service, these are decisions to be made by adults, not the government,” he said.
Eli Crane, a Navy SEAL veteran and non-tobacco user, said he found the bill “disturbing and un-American.”
“I’m sure these officials have good intentions, but we need government to back off and stop the ridiculous overreach,” he said. “If we consider consider 18-year-olds adults and old enough to vote, then a pack of smokes should be age-appropriate as well.”
Marine Corps veteran Kate Mannion, of Barstool Sports’ military podcast “Zero Blog Thirty,” said the designated smoking areas on a base — nicknamed the smoke pit — are often the best places to connect with people and decompress, saying they are “the place to be f—ing be” on a Friday or Saturday night.
The podcast panel agreed if the bill becomes law, it would cause a riot, and service members will just find ways to go around it. They also predicted the ban would not be as heavily enforced as with underage drinking.
Dusty Cook, another Marine Corps veteran, said while “tobacco and young Marines go hand and hand,” he sees it as an opportunity to help with the younger generation to become better fighters without the side effects of tobacco use.
“It may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe tobacco use reduces our effectiveness and degrades the health of our Marines. The Marine Corps has gotten better about health and human performance research and data interpretation these days. We’re seeing advancements in physical training programs, sports medicine, and even nutrition. If this act passes, it won’t be welcomed with open arms, but it will help our combat effectiveness in the long run,” he said.
According to the Truth Initiative, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, 24% of active duty members smoked, and 19.5% said they used smokeless tobacco products. The Marine Corps has the highest rate of tobacco users at 30% for smokers and 31% for smokeless tobacco products.
(Screenshot via Truth Initiative)