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E-Cigs and the DoD

It’s Memorial Day. You woke up this morning to find half the town shirtless. Old Faithful spews from the fire hydrant around the corner, a watermelon and a six pack of Corona are suddenly stocked in the fridge, and… is that Banana Boat we smell on the seats of your car?

Yeah, you could say this is a pretty good day. Your seasonal depression has melted away, you’ve whipped out the loud shirts your wife is embarrassed to see you in, and school's out for summer (well, this might not be the best news). But hey... today, along with remembering your sunscreen, you should probably take a moment to remember why we’ve got a Memorial Day in the first place.

On a day when we’re encouraged to acknowledge the lost lives of military men and women, we think it's appropriate for us to acknowledge the number of potential lives lost - specifically, those of military members who smoke tobacco cigarettes. According to military.com news, "Studies show military members use tobacco at higher rates than same-age civilians. A 2011 Defense Department survey showed 24 percent of troops smoked, compared with 20 percent of civilians of the same age."

The fact that members of the military smoke tobacco cigarettes more than other groups might not be surprising seeing as, for many, cigarettes are a coping mechanism for stress. But right now, there is much talk of potential tobacco bans on bases and ships. For many soldiers who smoke tobacco this threat is ominous, and forcing many nicotine consuming soldiers to stay away from cigarettes by eliminating smoking completely is a topic of heated debate.

You’d think the military would consider e-cigarettes as an alternative, but there seems to be negativity around the idea of integrating e-cigarettes into the DoD. For example, the Air Force has banned e-cigarettes from the workplace, and at least one Marine base has done the same.

So, in an effort to get a ground-floor opinion about e-cigarettes and the military, we chatted with e-cigarette user Army Spc. Davina Pyant-Meade, formerly stationed at Fort Lewis, located 9.1 miles south-southwest of Tacoma, WA.

NJOY: What do you think about integrating e-cigarettes into bases as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes?

Davina: I think that would help soldiers who are nicotine-dependent by providing a viable alternative. By banning the sale and use of all recreational nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, on military installations, the DoD would put soldiers who reside on installations in a very tough situation. This could lead to needless punishment of soldiers caught using tobacco under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which would waste time and resources better devoted to other things.

NJOY: What is it that appeals to you personally about e-cigarettes over traditional combustible tobacco cigarettes?

Davina: I personally find the taste and lack of tobacco smoke to be appealing. I also like being able to use an e-cigarette without having to stop what I'm doing and go outside to smoke tobacco.

NJOY: How do you think the military could benefit from permitting soldiers who already smoke tobacco to purchase and use e-cigarettes on base?

Davina: I think it would help balance out the revenues that are going to be lost from the reduction of tobacco sales and not put undue stress on soldiers who smoke, as being in the military is already somewhat restrictive and stressful.