Smoking rates in the military are higher than in the general public- on about 1 in every 5 Americans smoke compared to the nearly 1 in 4 for those in the active military. But 38% of those troops didn’t start smoking until after they enlisted- why?
The tobacco industry has had a very lengthy relationship with our armed forces. In multiple wars in the 21st century, tobacco companies would send free cigarettes and sponsor events for our soldiers. In fact, it was the industry’s contributions to troops that started to tip researchers off on the connection to lung cancer and smoking. Lung cancer was an uncommon disease prior to World War I, but so many vets who smoked developed lung cancer that researchers couldn’t help but connect the dots. Big Tobacco has called the military market “plums here to be plucked” and has created multiple marketing campaigns aimed specifically for troops. They would sponsor “Welcome Home” events with their logos plastered over their signs as well as music events, competitions, and vans in front of base shops that passed out free cigarettes and coupons. But they didn’t just settle for troops overseas- they sponsored events and advertising at military wives’ clubs so they could target the soldiers’ families, too.
Our nation’s troops deserve respect- Big Tobacco clearly did not get the memo.