2009/05/17

Tobacco smoking in the army

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There's a problem lingering for decades if not centuries, and I cannot understand why it wasn't solved yet: Smoking in the army.

1) It harms the soldier's health.
2) It reduces the lung performance and thus endurance
3) It's highly visible at night (pipes only when lighted)
4) Lighting a pipe or cigarette degrades the soldier's natural eye vision for up to 30 minutes
5) It's extremely easy to smell, much easier than sweat or differences in diet.


Front-line troops simply should not smoke. It's a deliberate degradation of their capabilities and endangers themselves and their comrades.

It should be prohibited, and this prohibition should be realized with incentives and sanctions.

These dangerous effects can even be avoided without withdrawal for the nicotine addicts; nicotine patches and chewing tobacco/smokeless tobacco (European brands don't even require much chewing, just once in a while) are effective substitutes without those dangerous side-effects.
Chewing tobacco is still a health hazard and keeping the nicotine addition still keeps the detrimental effects on concentration, but it's much better in war than smoking.

Nicotine addicts believe that nicotine enhances their concentration. That's true, but in their context.
The concentration of a nicotine addict on withdrawal is much inferior to the concentration of a nicotine addict who got nicotine recently.
The problem: Both have ceteris paribus an inferior concentration in comparison to non-addicted people. It's similar with calmness.
They're just fooling themselves.


Smoking should have been effectively banned in the army a hundred years ago. It's simply incompatible with front line competence.

Sven Ortmann
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5 comments:

  1. I don't smoke and I don't disagree with anything you said but if I was in the frontline of a conventional war, I would probably take up smoaking ... unless a supply of red bulls was available.

    If you remove woman, booze, toilets,etc etc. for an extended period of time and then introduce an enemy who wants you dead, then encourages you start killing, you have got to do something to keep moral up. Prozac just is not enough.

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  2. There are numerous proven alternatives to improve morale, just like there were many armies in history who didn't need drugs to win a war.

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  3. 1) It harms the soldier's health.

    - There are far more things the Army/DOD has done to me or situations they have put me in are that are waay more harmful to my health than smoking. Unclean water (KBR), risk of electrocution in the shower (KBR, again), toxins from burning trash on the FOB's, exposure to Depleted Uranium (anywhere in Iraq we used A10's and Sabot M1 rounds)... etc etc...


    2) It reduces the lung performance and thus endurance.

    - True, no arguement there. But so does all the excess crap they weigh us down with, Interceptors, etc etc..

    3) It's highly visible at night (pipes only when lighted).

    - This is just part of good noise and light discipline. You don't smoke outside the wire at night on patrol. You just don't. Your NCO's and your buddies will kick your a** if you do. If you are on the FOB or COP at night you don't smoke outside where it can be seen by someone outside the wire. This is why many of us chew tobbaco.


    4) Lighting a pipe or cigarette degrades the soldier's natural eye vision for up to 30 minutes.

    - There are ways to do this without ruining your night vision. Also you dont smoke out on patrol or while on perimiter/tower guard so no big problem with this. A non-issue.


    5) It's extremely easy to smell, much easier than sweat or differences in diet.

    - Who's going to smell it? The Afghans or Iraqi's who smoke third world cig's that are pretty much made from the "floor-sweepings" left over from the production of western smokes?

    And if you are laying in an ambush they are going to see you or hear you loong before smelling you (even if they can) anyways.

    Nice try Sven.

    (Oh and I'm not a regular "smoker"... but I've been known to bum a smoke once in a while from those who do.)

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  4. Something doesn't need to be the worst thing in the world to be a too bad idea.

    It serves no (non-imagined) purpose and harms in many ways. That's enough reason to eliminate it from the military.

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