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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The military's discount on tobacco could go up in smoke.
On July 15, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee approved a $549.3-billion defense spending bill that would eliminate the 25-percent discount that members of the armed services receive when buying tobacco products at commissaries and elsewhere, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee, said studies show that tobacco use is higher in the military. He said that translates into more illnesses and health care costs of $1.6 billion a year.
"Smoking rates among service members are 20-percent higher than the rest of America and use of smokeless (spit) tobacco is more than 450 percent higher," Durbin said. "Discounting tobacco products lures even more servicemen and women into this unhealthy and deadly addiction."
The Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow. The defense bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would do away with the discount.
In June, Durbin chaired a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Fiscal Year 2015 funding requests for the Department of Defense. During the hearing, Durbin questioned both Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, regarding the practice of discounting tobacco products for service members.
In March, Durbin joined U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and others in calling on U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to prohibit the sale of tobacco products aboard naval bases and ships, a move the Department of the Navy is currently considering.
According to the AP, the U.S. House of Representatives version of the defense policy bill would thwart any Navy efforts to restrict access to tobacco. In May, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) described smoking as one of the few pleasures for a member of the military. The House Armed Services Committee backed his measure.