Tobacco Industry Influence on the U.S. Military

Investigator: Ruth Malone, RN, PhD, FAAN
Sponsor: NIH National Cancer Institute

Location(s): United States


Tobacco use in the U.S. military diminishes troop health and readiness, and increases costs. Although smoking among military personnel has decreased in the past few decades, it still remains unacceptably high. In the U.S., tobacco accounts for more than 400,000 deaths each year, and smoking is a proven cause of several types of cancers and other diseases. The tobacco industry's interest in the armed forces dates to World War I, when cigarettes were distributed to soldiers by the War Department, and continues to the present day, despite military public health efforts to reduce tobacco use. Military recruits, often young and away from home for the first time, represent an important market for the tobacco industry. Military-specific tobacco promotion, reduced prices for tobacco at military commissaries, and tobacco industry efforts to delay or thwart effective tobacco control policies within the military contribute to tobacco use initiation and sustenance among service personnel. There is also evidence that the industry has utilized its military connections to further the use of tobacco around the world. Understanding and countering tobacco industry influence is essential for reducing tobacco use among military personnel. This project will address the tobacco industry's influence on the U. S. military by: 1) Retrieving and analyzing internal tobacco industry documents in order to describe the tobacco industry's activities pertaining to the four active branches of the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force); 2) Examining current tobacco policies and practices in the Department of Defense (DoD) and service branches through a content analysis of policies and interviews with policy leaders; and 3) Developing a set of case studies of tobacco control policy development and implementation within the military. Drawing on the results of Aims #1-3, we will develop and disseminate recommendations for tobacco control policies and initiatives, which address gaps in current military tobacco control policies.