Push to Exempt Soldiers from ‘Tobacco-21’

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    Members of the U.S. military under 21 years old would again be allowed to buy and use tobacco products on military bases under a proposal being pushed by Senator Tom Cotton, reports The Military Times.

    In late 2019, Congress passed legislation raising the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. Last summer, military commissaries ended all sales of tobacco products to individuals under 21, although military officials at the time acknowledged they would not strictly police use of the products among underage troops.

    Cotton’s proposal would reverse those changes just for members of the military. Any store on Defense Department property that sells tobacco products would be allowed to sell to individuals as young as 18 years old, and “any such member may consume such products on the installation.”

    “Tobacco doesn’t impair one’s judgment, so if young troops want a smoke or a dip on an overnight shift or off-duty hours, why should politicians or nanny-state bureaucrats tell them no?” Cotton told Military Times.

    Military officials have strongly discouraged use of tobacco products in recent years, spending billions on smoking cessation campaigns. A 2015 federal study found the Defense Department spends more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care, hospitalization and lost workdays.

    Among troops, vaping is now more popular than smoking.