Senators want to ban tobacco sales on naval bases

Senate Democrats urged the Navy to stop the sale of tobacco products on ships and bases.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus a letter over the weekend expressing their opinion on the issue the Navy is currently considering.

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“We understand that you are considering prohibiting the sale of all tobacco products aboard naval bases and ships,” the letter stated. “We commend your efforts and hope that you will move forward with this initiative which will renew emphasis on the health of our dedicated sailors and Marines as well as provide for increased combat readiness.”

The Navy makes a nearly $90 million profit a year from selling tobacco products on bases and ships, but the senators said the Department of Defense looses 20-times that amount on the lost productivity and health costs later.

“While smoking rates among active-duty military have decreased in the past few decades — similar to the trends that we are seeing in the civilian population — DOD should do more to lower the smoking rates among active-duty military,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to do everything in your capacity to address this issue for our military men and women, including moving forward with the proposal to stop the sale of tobacco aboard all naval bases and ships.”

The senators said they appreciate the Navy’s efforts to stop smoking on submarines and providing benefits for those trying to quit, but that the rate of military personnel who smoke is 10 percent higher than the general population. They said in part that was because the wide availability of tobacco products on bases and ships make it harder for people to quit.

Mabus is expected to make a decision about selling tobacco products on bases and ships soon.