Smoking in the military is big business. Service personnel can obtain cigarettes for about 12.5% less than the usual retail markets. These sales generate about 90 million dollars in sales for the Department of Defense annually. But what is the cost of this profit?

The same Department of Defense spends 1.9 billion dollars in costs for health care and absenteeism each year. The Department of Veterans Affairs spends 5 billion dollars a
year just to treat COPD. There has been a long tradition of smoking tolerance in the US military. Cigarettes were distributed freely in WWI and WWII. They were officially removed from the military rations only in 1975. In 1980 about half of all military personnel were smokers compared to about 18 percent in the general population. Education seems to play a role in military smoking habits with only 8% of the college graduates smoking against 37% of military personnel with no more than a high school diploma.

The military now requires that basic training be smoke free but most regular smokers return to their habit when basic training is completed. One study has shown that 30% of military smokers acquired their habit after enlistment. The military now wants to let everyone know that smoking is bad and wants to discourage it. “Quit Tobacco Make Everyone Proud” is the latest military campaign to try and curb smoking in the ranks. The goal is to bring down the military smoking rate to 12% by 2020.