Politics is a tricky business chock full of checks, balances, hidden agendas, favors and obligations. Nothing is ever quick or easy and everything, everything comes at a price. In what seems like an odd disagreement, lawmakers are standing up against the U.S. Navy because the military branch is attempting to make a healthy move.
The U.S. Navy is considering banning the sale of tobacco products on their bases and installations, a move that seems to be proposed with the health of enlisted men and women in mind. One could make the argument that our military should strive to achieve the best health they can have and eliminating tobacco products would be a no-brainer in getting there. That being said, there are several legislators who oppose the Navyâ€™s proposed ban, claiming that banning the sale of a legal product violates the rights of enlisted people and that as an extension of the government, the Navy has an obligation to allow people to continue to buy tobacco products if they so desire. Drama.
As is usually the case, legislators donâ€™t agree. While there are currently 18 legislators who oppose the Navyâ€™s potential ban, there is also a group who supports it.
â€œWe applaud your ongoing efforts to help our sailors and Marines break nicotine addiction and avoid the lifelong health complications and deaths associated with tobacco use. We urge you to do everything in your capacity to address this issue for our military men and women, including moving forward with the proposal to stop the sale of tobacco aboard all naval bases and ships,â€ Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote in a March 28 letter in support of the proposed ban.
Itâ€™s also worth noting that Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel is also a strong supporter of the ban.
â€œI donâ€™t know if thereâ€™s anybody in America who still thinks that tobacco is good for you,â€ Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon in response to a question about the Navy review. â€œWe donâ€™t allow smoking in any of our government buildings. Restaurants, states, [and] municipalities have pretty clear regulations on this. I think in reviewing any options that we have as to whether we in the military through commissaries [or] PXs sell or continue to sell tobacco is something we need to look at. And we are looking at it. And I think we owe it to our people,â€ he told reporters at the Pentagon.
The debate over the ban will undoubtedly rage on and no decision (either way) will be legally finalized for a while. For the record, the legislators who oppose the ban all hail from states that serve as home to big tobacco companies.