2014-07-13 P-D: “Sherpa: Move to ban smoking in military needs snuffing”

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch Metro reporter, Joe Holleman, also writes the Sunday “Life Sherpa” column and his latest is worth reproducing. It reflects one point of view and has some resonance, in that when you’re serving on active duty in a war zone, smoking cigarettes may not seem like your biggest concern. However, promoting cigarette smoking, even among military personnel, no longer makes any sense, if it ever did.

Maybe it seemed like a good idea during trench warfare when there were evidently long bouts of tedium separating over-the-top suicide charges towards enemy lines protected by barbed wire and machine guns. Promoting smoking in the military was certainly a wonderful boost to tobacco manufacturers, and resulted in a sudden large return of addicted demobilized military personnel in 1918.

However, to quote a well-known cigarette sales pitch, since then “We’ve come a long way baby.” That is, except for those steadfastly closing their eyes to reality and what we’ve learned about the addictiveness of cigarettes, and the disease and premature death they cause. (Not to mention the similar effects and air pollution caused by secondhand smoke.)

In fact, a legislator whom Holleman dismisses, U.S. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, is a hero to me. As a Congressman, Durbin worked with the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to pass the very first limitation on smoking in airplanes, requiring flights of two hours or less to be smoke-free – which eventually led to smoke-free flights to and from the U.S. At the time this was (and remains) an incredible victory, given the tobacco industry’s influence then and now in the Congress. (This noteworthy effort deserves a separate blog.)

Joe Holleman is living in the past, and evidently a great ally of one of the most duplicitous industries of our time: Big Tobacco.

Please note: I’ve shortened the article’s introduction.

Joe Holleman  Metro reporter

Joe Holleman, Metro reporter

Sherpa: Move to ban smoking in military needs snuffing
July 12, 2014 12:15 am • By Joe Holleman jholleman@post-dispatch.com 314-340-825450

When listening to sports radio, especially when the subject of evaluating a player’s talent arises, you might hear the phrase “eye test.” …. This simply means, after all the numbers have been crunched, what does a player look like? ….
         That’s why I propose that all legislators, and the executive branch for that matter, adopt the “ear test” as soon as possible. It would work like this:
         When proposing legislation, it shall be required that each representative read — out loud — what the bill will actually do. Forget the statistics for a moment and just see what reaction the words trigger in your brain.
         For if the ear test rule were in place, then Congress would not have recently discussed limiting or prohibiting military personnel from smoking cigarettes.
         My kingdom for an ear test, and mine would sound something like this:
         “Should the U.S. — while asking our military to face enemy guns, bombs and missiles; fly dangerous missions in airplanes and helicopters under fire; and endure nerve-wracking terror, tension and boredom in hostile locales — tell soldiers, sailors and pilots that they can’t smoke ’em, even if they got ’em?”

mogasp comment: Some fire departments have hired only non-smoking firefighters for what is also a dangerous job. To be eligible for disability due to job-related smoke inhalation it makes no sense to simultaneously permit cigarette smoking. While this is not exactly analogous, promoting the highest level of physical fitness among military personnel still makes sense.

         Many cigarette-haters will trumpet this move as a giant step in the right direction and point to the illnesses and deaths cigarettes cause.
         To be sure, I don’t disagree with those medical facts. I know personally of the damage that cigarettes cause. My father, a smoker for many years, died of lung cancer. Realizing the danger, I managed to kick that nasty habit 11 years ago, and I have no plans to put that monkey back on my back.
         Then again, I’ve been able to avoid those pesky “someone is trying to kill me with rocket-propelled grenades” stress levels.
         Heck, the worst fire I ever draw are snarky letters from soccer sycophants and animal activists. Sorry to disappoint, but those missives aren’t enough to push me back into the warm and smoky arms of Miss Winston Light.
         To no one’s surprise, I hope, this military-tobacco issue has even been the subject of a government study. One fact they managed to uncover is that smoking is higher among those who are likely to face enemy fire. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

         But isn’t it par for the course that our elected leaders would spend time discussing this issue? One U.S. senator, Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin, even questioned whether the military should be offering tobacco discounts.
         Durbin said, “We spend $1.6 billion a year on medical care of service members from tobacco-related diseases and loss of work.”
         Pardon me, but the pressing question about military health care is not how much we spend, but how well we spend it. Recent reports about deficiencies at Veterans Administration hospitals seem to indicate that the answer is “abysmally.”
         Thankfully, one U.S. congressman spotted the emperor jogging naked around the Capitol rotunda.
Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

         Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, got the House to prohibit placing new restrictions on legal products for the military.
         I’d like to think that Hunter — a Marine Reserve major who did three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — won this battle by providing his own ear test, saying:
         “We sleep in the dirt for this country. We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy.”
         And on that note, the common-sense lamp was lit.
         

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