Smoking An Enemy to U.S. Military: Study
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The freedom to smoke is presumably one of the many liberties that the US military stands guard to protect--even though cigarettes kill over 430,000 American men and women each year. However, new research suggests that the US mi
As a result, the cost of wasted training time and equipment directly related to smoking is about $18 million per year for the Air Force, according to Dr. Robert C. Klesges and colleagues. The researchers estimate that smoking costs all branches of the military a total of $130 million each year.
``Smokers are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, eat less well, that kind of thing...but even when you consider those factors in the relationship between smoking and discharge from the military, there is still something unique about smoking's contribution,'' Klesges told Reuters Health.
Klesges conducted his research at the Center for Community Health at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. From 1995 to 1996, he and his colleagues followed over 29,000 US Air Force recruits through their first year of training and service. The report is published in the March issue of the journal Tobacco Control.
The investigators found that almost 20% of the recruits who they considered ``regular smokers''--those who had at least one cigarette per day--were discharged by the end of the study period. Only 12% of nonsmokers were discharged.
``Smoking cessation and prevention is something that we know works, and if I was the military and I saw how much smoking cost me from a health standpoint and from a discharge standpoint, smoking cessation and prevention becomes enormously cost-effective,'' Klesges told Reuters Health.
He noted that when it comes to why military personnel get sick or die, smoking tops all other health issues--including AIDS (news - web sites) and alcohol.
Klesges emphasized that the US military is taking the smoking issue very seriously--banning smoking altogether during the 2-month basic training period and implementing programs to help recruits kick the habit and discouraging new habits from forming. He noted, however, that in an environment where smoking has deep cultural roots, combating cigarettes will require a major and sustained effort.
``The military is a high-risk population because it's an occupation where most of the time it's incredibly boring and repetitive and then at other times all hell breaks loose,'' Klesges said. ``That's the kind of occupation they have, along with firefighters, police officers and even nurses. But the Air Force is decidedly antismoking and the Navy is equally engaged, and I think the culture is changing.''