11 July 2009

Nanny-Pentagon: Non-Smoking Military

According to FoxNews, a report has come out of the Pentagon which urges Defense Secretary Gates to end tobacco use in the military. "Any tobacco use while in uniform should be prohibited" is the recommendation of the report. It all comes down to cost, though, as the report claims that the Pentagon and the Veteran's Administration lose or spend about $7 billion on tobacco related issues (lost time, health care, etc.). Where I think the report really launches into loony land is when it claims to want "new officers and enlisted personnel to be tobacco-free". What bizarro world do these report preparers live in?

It seems that at some point the Pentagon - and by larger implication the federal government - would figure out that they deal primarily with issues involving human beings. I know that sounds ludicrously obvious, but it is a point which needs to be made. So often, dollar costs, time costs, this cost and that cost are thrown on "issues" in order to give them scope and scale. Sooner or later, I suspect a few token examples of tobacco use "ruining the life" of some poor soldier will be held up as the example of why this ban must be put in place; the Pentagon simply must save our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen from themselves.

It is, I think, a reflection of the larger debate about who will pay for health insurance for every living soul in the country (regardless of any and all particularities between them). One size must fit all, it seems. So much money can be saved; so we've been told. I'm sure there are shocking statistics about amount of work time lost due to some people's inability to find "affordable health care". And the individual cases of how the health care system has "ruined a life" have been put forward. So the federal government must save its poor subjects from themselves.

But this denies the humanity inherent within each one of us - though that human nature will cause us to do things which are damaging to ourselves. I speak from experience; I was one of those soon-to-be-banned tobacco users while I was in the military. Many a long duty was broken by having a smoke. Many a long, intense flight was "supported" by a bit of chewing tobacco. And then I quit both. I didn't need nor want the government which I served to tell me that I couldn't smoke or chew - things which are not prohibited to any American over 18. In fact, I would have deeply resented it.

But I suppose this drive for a tobacco purging is an extension of various governmental bodies getting into matter which they should never even consider touching. The executive as auto maker. The Pentagon as health cop. The Federal Reserve as economic czar. The EPA as CO2 tax collector and Al Gore surrogate. Schools as baby-sitting facilities. Universities as sports venues. News reporters as infomercial dispensers. It's a very, very mixed up culture that we've immersed ourselves in. If we can pull out of the dive, perhaps there will still be enough liberty out there so that our fighting men and women can still have a smoke, if they choose.

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