White House Effort to Curb Tobacco Use Among Military Families is Vital Support for Armed Services

Reducing Tobacco use will improve readiness, save lives and reduce health costs

Apr. 12 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is honored to be a partner in Joining Forces, the new White House initiative to support military families and improve the health of active-duty personnel, their families and veterans.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are to be commended for their extraordinary effort in putting together a broad coalition to honor the service of our military personnel as well as the sacrifices they and their families make. We are pleased that the wellness component of the White House initiative specifically includes tobacco prevention and cessation, two keys to reducing the debilitating disease and death caused by tobacco and preventing the children of military personnel from starting to smoke.

As part of this initiative, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other health groups have committed to reach more than 800,000 people in military communities in an effort to reduce tobacco use.  The rate of smoking among U.S. military personnel was 30.6 percent in 2008, according to the Department of Defense — far higher than the 20.6 percent rate among adults in the general population.

More than 15 percent of military men use smokeless tobacco, with an even higher rate of use, 19 percent, among male service members aged 18 to 24.

Reducing tobacco use among military personnel is critical to improving physical fitness and endurance. Service members who use tobacco are more likely to drop out of basic training, sustain injuries and have poor vision, all of which compromise readiness.

Reducing tobacco use among service members and their families will reduce disease, save lives, and reduce the financial burden on the military and veterans’ health care systems. The Military Health System spent about $564 million in tobacco-related health care costs in 2006, while the Veterans Administration spent $5 billion in 2008 just to treat smoking-caused emphysema.

To fulfill our commitment to reduce tobacco use among military personnel and their families, and to help prevent youth in military communities from ever starting to use tobacco, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will:

  • Bring Kick Butts Day, a national day of youth activism against tobacco, to communities with large proportions of military families, as well as to bases. Kick Butts Day educates youth on the health risks of tobacco, empowers them to educate their peers and gives them the tools to take action in promoting proven public policies that reduce tobacco use.

  • Create a new Youth Advocate of the Year Award and scholarship for children of military families.  Our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor outstanding young people around the country who have taken the lead in fighting tobacco and making a difference in their communities and states.

  • Select and train Tobacco-Free Youth Ambassadors from among military families. These youth receive training and technical assistance in learning how to advocate for the health of those in their community and beyond.

We are also committed to working closely with the many other public health groups and companies who are taking part in the effort to reduce tobacco use among military personnel and their families. These include:  American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Legacy, GSK Consumer Healthcare and Pfizer.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year and costing $96 billion in health expenditures annually.

 

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