The smoking rate among our Armed Forces is nearly 2 times as high than that of the rest of America. No one has a definitive answer as to why, but tobacco companies and the military have a long history. Starting in World War I, cigarettes managed to be a staple in soldiers’ rations and cigarette companies claimed they helped to calm soldiers down and boost troop morale. Smoking was its highest in the Korean and Vietnam wars where 3 out of every 4 soldiers smoked. Cigarettes may be responsible for as many as 50-70% of lung cancer deaths. After the end of World War II, lung cancer rates spiked 5 times faster than any other form of cancer and may have been what spiked scientists to first start investigating the link between smoking and lung cancer.
The Wormack Army Medical Center studied reports of different types of training injuries that soldiers commonly receive during training. They found that smokers were 31% more likely to become injured and the more they smoked, the greater their risk of injury. Even if the smokers quit, the long-term damage to blood flow and inflammation may continue to haunt them well in to the future. The specifics as to why smoking makes a soldier more likely to get hurt is not entirely known, but researchers want to explore the possibility that there are other features that smokers may have in common that makes them more at risk.
A popular argument against raising the tobacco buying age from 18 is that if young people are old enough to fight for our country, they should be old enough to buy tobacco. It is not in the best interest of our soldiers or our country for them to be addicted to tobacco. Smoking soldiers are more likely to be sick, suffer from respiratory infections, heal more slowly, and have poor night vision. And now, we’re learning they’re more likely to be hurt. Is it really fair to them to pile more troubles on them than the ones they’re already facing on the battlefield, only for them to continue to fight them for the rest of their lives when they come home?