Research: Proposed FDA vaping ban will negatively impact U.S. military soldiers

The United States military has a long history of smoking and tobacco use, and statistics indicate a steady rise in vaping as a healthier alternative in recent years.  As the debate continues to escalate over a newly proposed ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a wide range of vapor products, some military experts are beginning to question the possible negative effects that this might have on America’s soldiers.  New research is surfacing that indicates a possible backlash of adverse side effects that may even hamper our country’s national security efforts.

As far back as World War I, soldiers would often receive military rations that contained combustible tobacco cigarettes.  Even in the 1910s, public health experts considered smoking to be a detriment to physical and moral health.  However, according to an article in the New York Times at the time, the top brass approved the inclusion of cigarettes in rations packages as a way to “lighten the inevitable hardships of war.”

Related Article: U.S. Navy considers new stance on vaping

The practice continued for decades with minor modifications along the way until as recently as the 1990s when American troops sent to Saudi Arabia were receiving care packages of personal care items, favorite comfort foods, and popular home-grown tobacco cigarettes.  Big Tobacco’s Phillip Morris even provided 10,000 cartons of Marlboros to the effort free of charge.  

Military vapers at risk of relapsing into smoking

Fast-forward to current day, and a recent study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that U.S. military personnel currently deployed to Afghanistan and Iran are reported to be smoking at twice the rate of American civilians.  About 20 percent also reported to have started or restarted their smoking addiction only after being deployed. 

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The added stress of being so far away from home in such a highly volatile military region is one likely factor, but middle eastern nations also tend to exhibit significantly higher national smoking rates, as well.  It’s the old adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” that may also be contributing to the documented increases in smoking rates among the military.  And this occurs within the U.S. ranks as well as those of Great Britain and other nations, too.

“In a cross-sectional survey of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 40% smoked at least one-half pack of cigarettes per day, with nearly half of smokers stating that they started or resumed smoking during their deployment.  A survey of a small group of British military medical professionals reported similar findings of increased smoking rates post-deployment among nonsmokers and increased daily cigarette intake among smokers.”

Since 2012, all branches of the armed forces are experiencing a steady rise in the number of soldiers transitioning from smoking to vaping.  Even for service personnel, many of the Big Pharma smoking cessation alternatives still require a doctor’s prescription or, at minimum, an expensive health insurance copayment. Meanwhile, vapor products are easily accessible and comparatively inexpensive, even when deployed abroad.

Military soldiers prefer vaping, says study

In late 2017, the U.S. Navy was considering banishing vaping on all vapor products of their ships.  The chief concern at the time surrounded several recent news reports of e-cig explosions.  Another possible contributing factor may have been the release of reputable scientific studies about military vaping - like the one published by the University of Buffalo in June 2017.

Entitled Daily users compared to less frequent users find vape as or more satisfying and less dangerous than cigarettes, and are likelier to use non-cig-alike vaping products, the report is still available via Preventative Medicine Reports.  After interviewing 400 military service personnel, the study concluded that e-cigs were considered both safer and healthier than combustible tobacco products. 

Related Article:  Military smokers prefer vaping, says report

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