Military Members Can Fight for the Country but Can’t Buy Tobacco? Maybe Not for Long…


What we expect out of our military members is a bit ridiculous. At the age of 18, we expect them to commit to the United States. We expect them to risk their lives and stand on the frontlines of a battlefield. Yet, we won’t allow them to buy tobacco products?

It’s time we change the way we approach military members. Shouldn’t they get a few extra perks that the rest of the country doesn’t?

A Republican Senator is currently pushing a proposal that would allow servicemembers between the ages of 18 and 21 to buy and use tobacco products on military bases.

It wasn’t that long ago that service members (and anyone) could buy tobacco at the age of 18. That left many who were already smoking at 18 and 19 to suddenly have to quit or risk getting into legal trouble.

Now, Army veteran and Republican Senator Tom Cotton out of Arkansas is fighting to give service members the right to buy, use, and smoke tobacco as they please. After all, if they’re allowed to be deployed for war, they should have the right to be an adult in every other aspect.

The language will be included in the annual defense authorization bill as long as Cotton can win the debate during the Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. Over 300 amendments are being considered within the measure.

When Military Times caught up to the Senator to ask him about the measure, he commented that “Tobacco doesn’t impair one’s judgment, so if young troops want a smoke or a dip on an overnight shift or off-duty hours, why should politicians or nanny-state bureaucrats tell them no?”

If this provision is adopted, it would be one of the more visible ones for younger troops.

Smoking is common on military bases because it’s a way to handle the stress. Everyone already knows the health risks, and we can’t treat 18-year-olds as though they don’t know any better – especially when they’re already employed by the government and being trained in war tactics.

Now, the measure wouldn’t be opened up for all 18-year-olds – only those that are in the military.

At the end of 2019, Congress passed legislation that moved tobacco from 18 to 21. Military commissaries ended the sale of tobacco products to those under 21 as of last summer. Although many military officials said that they would not strictly police the use, some underage troops have felt the pressure of the law.

If Cotton’s proposal is accepted, the changes passed by Congress would be reversed only for those in the military. Any stores or commissaries on Department of Defense property that sells tobacco products would be allowed to sell to those as young as 18. It would also allow servicemembers to consume the tobacco products on the military installation.

There are several other Senators that are looking to add alcohol to the list of what can be acquired by servicemembers at the age of 18, too.

The problem is that this is not an issue that is on a political line. After all, Republican Mitch McConnell was one of the strongest supporters to raise the tobacco age.

Cotton’s plan is a valiant one. Let military members make the choice of whether they want to smoke or not. But at least give all of them that same choice. Making an age exception seems unfair when 18-year-olds can fight in a war but they can’t smoke tobacco.