Local News

Soldiers fume over proposed smoking ban

Posted July 13, 2009 4:37 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2009 7:21 p.m. EDT

— Some soldiers balked Monday at the possibility of a ban on tobacco use on U.S. military posts and by anyone in uniform, including combat troops.

A Pentagon study proposed the move based on a Department of Defense report that determined smoking hurts military personnel by reducing physical fitness and causing a host of health problems that cost the military nearly $846 million a year in medical care.

Some soldiers said they don't like the orders they might be required to follow under the proposed ban.

"It's not their choice to tell me what I can do as long as I'm doing what I need to do in my uniform," Army Sgt. Eric Johnson said. "I can make my own decisions. We can drink; we can smoke."

"There would be a lot of upset people, all the way from lower to the higher-ups, I'd say," Army Spc. Daniel Simpson said. "Soldiers, some of them, they just need that cigarette. They just need a little bit of relaxation, a little time alone."

A ban, which would have to be approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said would be phased in over five to 10 years.

Diana Deering, whose husband served in the Army before retiring, called the idea "heavy-handed."

"In a combat zone, if they haven't been over there and (don't) know what it's like, they don't have any right to tell (soldiers) what they can and cannot do," Deering said.

One in three service members uses tobacco, compared to one in five civilians. Fayetteville resident Chad Clabo said he plans to enlist and would be willing to kick the habit.

"I smoke, and I can't run when I smoke," Clabo said.