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Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-10 07:01pm
by Zor
As a general rule an army wants it's people to be in good physical shape, a healthy soldier can perform better than an unhealthy one in marching, working and fighting. It's a simple fact that you can easily intuit. For this reason it would come as a shock that during WW-2 these were a common part of all US military K-Ration packs.
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A measure which comes across to modern eyes as being a highly self destructive one: spending time, money and resources to distribute materials which only serve to make soldiers weaker, more vulnerable to detection and night, put them on edge when they would inevitably have to go without them for a time and increase the risk of fires and explosive accidents. But one must consider the time-frame: the full effects of Tobacco were not well known at the time. The link between Lung Cancer and Tobacco Use was first identified in 1939 by a doctor living in Nazi Germany, which would not be confirmed by Non-Nazi sources until 1950 (and latter Vehemently denied by the Tobacco Lobby and their stooges despite everything) and so tobacco usage was more common. But the bigger issue was a matter of marketing.
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We'll start in the Great War various companies on all sides sought to capitalize on the nationalistic spirit being stirred up and show that they supported their troops by sending items to help the troops, appearing patriotic and hoping to hook the victorious soldiers on their products post war. Tobacco companies were no exceptions to this, selling cigarettes to the military to sell to soldiers through quartermasters and encouraging people to send cigarettes to the troops to show their support for the war effort.
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Smoking was sold to soldiers as a "way to relieve stress" and they endeavored to use the smoking soldier as a strong masculine symbol to sell their products, an image which managed to survive the war and came back in force. During WWII this policy had spiked to the point where they'd convinced the US Army to provide cigarettes to soldiers as part of their standard ration packs.
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This move would survive the Second World War and continue, as would the cultural idea that Smoking was something that soldiers should do. In a display of remarkable bad judgement, a common thing that many drill instructors would do was allow short breaks in the training of soldiers short breaks if they had cigarettes and smoked them while having the rest of the soldiers continue on with exercises "Smoke em' if you got em, everyone else does pushups": a policy which went out out of their way to incentivize compromising behavior. It was only in 1975 that the US Military realized the stupidity of this policy and cut cigarettes from MCI ration packs.
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There was push-back by the Tobacco Lobby attempting to defend "The Right To Smoke" through the 1980s, including attempts to provide soldiers with cigarettes in the gulf war, though fortunately they were driven back. There is still some lingering effects of these old campaigns in the military, with tobacco use being higher than civilian use, even with authorities discouraging this destructive habbit.
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Zor

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 12:47am
by Sea Skimmer
Fun....but end of the day a military could give a fuck less about the long term health of the objective force warrior, by the them such persons healthcare cost enter into the future budget process the present day force commander will have been either promoted to a four star rank or retired with full benefits. Either way how much troops smoke at age 19 means nothing. If a war is fought they'll all be killed by bullets, shells or smallpox bombs. If a war is not fought then physical fitness was irrelevant, deterrence worked, apathy won or something. In countries with socialist medical care the difference matters even less then it does in the US, since the military has no responsibility for long term care, while the US Tircare system makes that a mixed subject depending on how long a given person serves.

Cigs were deleted in the US from official rations as a direct result of the decision to transition the US military to a pure volunteer force. Part of which meant the military would need to be a lot better paid, which meant it was a better idea to give soldiers more cash as opposed to relatively high cost cigarettes. Freedom of choice ect.

Remember this, while the US military actually invites OSAH inspections of its facilities in the 2018 era, it is not bound by those worker prtoection laws at all. Literally all 155mm artillery would be illegal if OSAH work standards applied, the shells are all excessively heavy and about a 127mm caliber would have to be adapted. That's just the start. Even in 2018 peacetime health and safety standards for US troops lag behind civilian standards from decades earlier. Though definitely since the end of the cold war it's been judged more important.

Also worth nothing is the fact that while US standards lag, they remain well ahead of what many foreign militaries will accept. Numerous foreign militaries for example use vehicles with seats that are too small for US troops or artillery systems that are literally too loud by US federal standards (set specifically by congress independent of OSAH regularly standards).

The German Puma IFV for example when evaluated vs US federal law turned out to have several seats significant below US standards I believe it was South African 155mm rounds that produced too much blast to be allowed to be fired by US towed artillery crews.

Course, like the whole point is killing people.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 01:23am
by Patroklos
This is a discussion I have had often with sailors, especially when I ran the ship's store. The simple fact is you are ripping these kids away from families and loved ones and putting all sorts or stressors and responsibilities on their shoulders. Just because they volunteered doesn't mean its not a mental taxation.

And then when they start getting shot at....

The simple fact is that real world soldiers are not analog machines or brainwashed Kurt Russels. They like the same things the citizenry at large do and while we can or do restrict plenty of things out of necessity cigarettes represent no acute degradation to performance. The represent on significant logistics hurdle to provide access to. The hypocrisy of telling teenagers you are sending into machine gun fire that they should denied the simple pleasure of a smoke should they want one because that might kill them 50 years from now is not exactly moral building. Its the same shit that leads us to the lunacy of removing fried food (actually happening) and processed sugar deserts (they are trying their best) from ships. Let that dude who just came off a port and starboard 12 hour midwatch have a fucking donut.

Which is not to say the military shouldn't encourage healthy lifestyles. And we should be sure we are not creating a culture that encourages tobacco use (as well as alcohol), especially as an escape mechanism. The military should and does make a significant effort to allow healthy lifestyles to be a viable choice for most of its forces in most situations. That, however, a far cry from putting someone in isolation and then intentionally denying them normal things just to make some axe grinding GS15 riding a desk safe in sound in DC have a warm fuzzy. If you want to fight tobacco use in the military you should fight it in the culture at large, otherwise you are just bailing water back into the hold.

Also, just like those stupid education tobacco taxes, there is a perverse intensive at work. MWR gets is money primarily from NEX sales. For local ship programs, they get it almost entirely from ship store sales (all the profits). As outside forces have jacked up the price of tobacco it's sale has become the lions share of the profit, because being a federal entity all those taxes don't apply to the NEX so everyone goes to there to get their cigarettes. MWR has become accustomed to this revenue stream...

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 12:24pm
by Simon_Jester
While I honestly don't know what MWR and NEX mean, I can definitely see the rest of this.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 12:43pm
by Patrick Ogaard
MWR = Morale, Welfare and Recreation, doing things that range from operating daycare centers to running holiday bazaars and even running a hotel in Tokyo and a ski lodge/resort in the Bavarian Alps.

NEX = Naval Exchange, the Navy equivalent to the Army's PX (Post Exchange) and the Air Force's BX (Base Exchange), i.e. retail stores operating on military facilities to keep troops and military-associated civilians supplied with consumer goods.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 01:49pm
by Simon_Jester
Patrick Ogaard wrote:
2018-03-11 12:43pm
MWR = Morale, Welfare and Recreation, doing things that range from operating daycare centers to running holiday bazaars and even running a hotel in Tokyo and a ski lodge/resort in the Bavarian Alps.
Before anyone blows up about these, it occurs to me that:

1) Japan has been base for a lot of US military servicemembers over the past sixty years, including naval basing.
2) Not sure about the ski lodge, but again, quite sizeable numbers of US military personnel were based on a semi-permanent basis in Europe, to the extent of bringing their families along, through much of the Cold War.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 02:18pm
by Patrick Ogaard
Well, obviously I should have hedged a bit and included the information that patronage is sharply limited, since the facilities cater specifically to servicemembers and their immediate families, as well as American civilians employed by the military.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category: ... on_Centers

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-11 02:55pm
by Patrick Ogaard
An important thing to consider is just how ubiquitous smoking was.


Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-12 01:32am
by Patroklos
There are also military vacation resorts in Hawaii and outside Disney in Orlando. These are revue neutral to the government, they are funded through NEX/PX activities and their own admission charges. The rates are based on rank, so senior officers are essentially paying close to market value for equivalent services, junior enlisted are getting steep savings.

They are partly relics of a different time, but at the same time they are a giant benefit to moral and cost nothing so why get rid of them?

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-14 08:04pm
by Swindle1984
When my grandpa got drafted in WW2, he loved the cigarettes that came in K-Rations. He didn't smoke; he traded them for chocolate and other luxuries that were otherwise hard to get. He basically used them as currency.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-16 08:11am
by Simon_Jester
That was extremely common throughout the World War Two era, as I understand it.

Since nicotine addicts will do a lot of things to get a fix, and burn cigarettes up steadily (literally) they make a good form of black-market currency in places where cash is either unavailable or not fully useful (i.e. foreign countries)

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-16 12:17pm
by Esquire
Indeed. It's an interesting take on Gresham's Law moderated through social pressures - I imagine somebody's probably gotten an economics PhD out of this.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-03-22 11:08pm
by Swindle1984
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-03-16 08:11am
That was extremely common throughout the World War Two era, as I understand it.

Since nicotine addicts will do a lot of things to get a fix, and burn cigarettes up steadily (literally) they make a good form of black-market currency in places where cash is either unavailable or not fully useful (i.e. foreign countries)
Cigarettes, cosmetics, liquor, medicine, and ammunition were more useful than currency during Argentina's economic collapse. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, a Serbian acquaintance of mine said that a can of beef stew could get you an hour with a woman, and Bic lighters were the equivalent of dollar bills and often given out as change for larger purchases. He bought himself a double-barrel shotgun, sawed it off, and carried it under his coat; only time he ever used it was when he rounded a corner on his way home from the (black) market with a newly purchased radio and a couple guys with AK-47's (he never found out who they were, which side they were on, or cared) demanded his radio. He let loose with both barrels in their general direction and took off back around the corner and took a different route home.

My grandfather had wisely purchased several pairs of nylon stockings during his brief visit to England on his way to Germany, and traded them to local women for better food (he hated K-Rations and it was several years after the war before he would finally eat anything that had come out of a can again). The nylons had cost him a fair amount of his pay. He also traded cigarettes for a bunch of Hitler postage stamps, which he then traded to another GI for a bag of lemons and a salt shaker stolen from the mess hall. It wasn't until years later when the stamps became very valuable that he regretted that trade.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-04-14 12:15pm
by Civil War Man
Patrick Ogaard wrote:
2018-03-11 12:43pm
MWR = Morale, Welfare and Recreation, doing things that range from operating daycare centers to running holiday bazaars and even running a hotel in Tokyo and a ski lodge/resort in the Bavarian Alps.

NEX = Naval Exchange, the Navy equivalent to the Army's PX (Post Exchange) and the Air Force's BX (Base Exchange), i.e. retail stores operating on military facilities to keep troops and military-associated civilians supplied with consumer goods.
MWR and the exchanges are also a big reason why, last I checked, the US military (particularly the navy) is the largest distributor of alcohol in the world, since the Officers' and Enlisted Clubs fall under the MWR umbrella.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-04-15 04:18pm
by Patroklos
Maybe in the past, but now that nearly nobody lives on base and the seriousness of DUI charges in general (and the military in paricular) most Chiefs and Officers's clubs have either been combined or closed altogether and the E-clubs are essentially just big rec rooms and are almost always dry.

If I go the O-club these days is usually as a conference venue, and if the bar is open I pass because I am invariably going to drive home directly after whatever event it is. There are some exceptions such as the Pensacola club which had a robust social schedule, but they are few and far between. The Norfolk one is a depressing dump that is always empty except for the lunch buffets (the bar is closed then), and that's the largest naval base in the world.

What DOES get the NEX robust alcohol business are the Class VI package stores. Tax free hooch, sailors eat it up. Where I am now, which only has two liquor stores in the entire country which charges ridiculous prices, the local one does ridiculous sales even with a ration in place. We also get a good traffic in Italian wines given the supply routes which are sold at special events.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-04-16 02:34pm
by Elheru Aran
The military has definitely taken note of the serious issues with alcoholism in its ranks (deriving this from Terminal Lance, the occasional news story, and secondhand conversations with my brother, a Major USMC). I'm not surprised at all to see them cracking down on liquor in the clubs.

I understand smokeless tobacco is quite popular as well, at least among Marines. Not sure if they're doing anything about that.

Re: Cigarettes in the military

Posted: 2018-04-16 03:52pm
by Patroklos
Tobacco cessation programs are definitely a thing, but at some point you just have to accept that young people in stressful jobs and under the same cultural influences as the rest of the population are going to use unhealthy outlets. Its human.

And this is all in light of the absolutely zero tolerance drug policy. So where do you want to spend your time and effort? On unhealthy but not acutely dangerous or mind altering commonly accepted vices, or substances that make you unable to do your job or cause you to kill people if you try to while indulging. Zero tolerance is tough to enforce, you have to pick your battles.