Military personnel under the age of 21 would again be allowed to purchase and use tobacco products on military bases under a proposal pushed by a Republican senator this week.
Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. and a military veteran, is expected to come up with language for effecting the change as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s debate on the annual Defense Authorization Bill, which begins later today.
This is one of 300 amendments that the expert group will consider as part of the massive defense policy measure. But the tobacco proposal, if passed, would be one of the most visible provisions of the legislation for young troops.
“Tobacco does not impair judgment, so if young soldiers want to smoke or bathe on a night shift or during off hours, why should politicians or nanny state bureaucrats tell them? no ? Cotton told the Military Times.
“Our troops are already sacrificing a lot to defend our nation. We shouldn’t take every little pleasure out of their life.
At the end of 2019, Congress passed a law raising the federal minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Last summer, military commissioners ended all sales of tobacco products to people under the age of 18. 21-year-old, although military officials at the time acknowledged that they would not be strictly the product among minor troops.
Cotton’s proposal would reverse these changes only for members of the military. Any store on Defense Ministry property that sells tobacco products would be allowed to sell to people as young as 18, and “any such member may consume such products at the facility.”
Lawmakers have made similar arguments in recent years to allow servicemen under the age of 21 to buy and consume alcohol, noting that troops are burdened with battlefield decisions and expensive military equipment.
But, like these proposals, Cotton’s plan also has a long chance of becoming law, even if it survives debate in committee.
Military officials have strongly discouraged the use of tobacco products in recent years, spending billions of dollars on smoking cessation campaigns. A 2015 federal study found that the Department of Defense spends more than $ 1.6 billion a year on medical care, hospitalizations and lost workdays.
And one of the strongest supporters of raising the age for buying tobacco products in 2019 was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
At the time the law was passed, McConnell said he had considered including an exemption on the new age limits for military personnel, in recognition of their public service. But he dropped the idea after discussions with public health advocates, saying the military should not be “treated differently over a public health issue.”
Committee members will hold a closed-door debate on the amendments to the authorization bill on Wednesday and Thursday, with the release of their decisions expected later this week.