Welcome to my non-WoW rant of the day!

 I don’t know if you’ve read this, if you’re aware of it, or even if you care.

According to a news story in USA Today from last Friday, a recent study by the Institute of Medicine, a study specifically requested by the VA and the Pentagon, recommends that there be a complete ban on all tobacco use for the United States Military, to ban it’s use on military property, and to ban it’s sale on Military property.

Okay, you can read the article yourself. It’s available online, and it all boils down to banning tobacco use by any military personnel… and it’s use on base as well, which would by extension mean no smoking bans would be enforced on all military property… any bets on if that would include on-base housing where the civilian families of active duty military members live?

Now, before I share my thoughts on this, let me give you my perspective on smoking.

I started smoking cigarettes in my first year or two in the US Marines. I smoked quite heavily by my personal standards, perhaps as much as a pack, pack and a half a day. I would sometimes, when on deployment and not expecting to spend much time in the field, take my pipe and some cans of tobacco with me because it would last longer and be cheaper than cartons of cigarettes.

When I spent a year in Okinawa, I switched to smoking clove cigarettes in a black paper wrapper with a gold foil ring, just because it was different. About 9 months in I heard that they could make your lungs bleed, so I quit that and went back to cigarettes. Spent most of my time in Okinawa running every day, there’s a very old Marine saying that when stationed in Okinawa, and single, there’s two ways you could go; drinking like a fish, or running like a gazelle. I ain’t much of a drinker. I got my time in the bars in, but they were mostly in a few quiet places off-street that played Jazz and catered to the local sake drinkers… and I loved sitting in a quiet bar drinking warm sake and listenening to the Yellowjackets or Shadowfax on a Saturday afternoon. But for the most part, I ran, and my lungs seemed healthy… but bleeding? Ick, better give that shit a wide berth, my friend.

During one particularly long deplyment in the desert, I ran out of tobacco, both cigarettes and pipe tobacco, and my buddy happened to still have quite a few ‘logs’ of spearmint Skoal long cut in his pack, so he handed some over… and I happily switched my tobacco use to Skoal smokeless tobacco. I figured it might help my run time anyway, if I stopped putting crap in my lungs. 

I continued to use Skoal, and smoke the occasional cigar with Manny, for a long time. By the time I got close to being married to Cassie, I’d been using tobacco in one form or another full time for 15 years. And, hey, I’ll be honest here; I loved it. I never found a single thing not to like.

Cassie told me early on that she did not like my using tobacco. She thought my chewing tobacco was nasty, the spit cans were disgusting, and the thought of kissing me after having that stuff in my mouth was nauseating.

I’ll blame it on the tobacco. :)

So I quit. And no, I don’t mean I chased around with patches and gum and whatever, I just mean I quit. I stopped using it, buying it, or having anything to do with it.

I guess it’s been a little over 8 years now, and aside from having a cigar once or twice with Manny when listening to the Tim Malloys play locally in a bar (The Half Time Rec Center), I haven’t gone back. I don’t have secret stashes, I don’t sneak cigarettes around. I just stopped. And, since Manny moved to the east coast, I haven’t even had a cigar in years, damnit. How am I supposed to cultivate a reputation for drunken debouchery if my only drinkin’ and smokin’ buddy moves to Virginia?

So I am a former Marine Corps veteran, heavy tobacco user that has quit tobacco use, and has been clean for 8 years.

This is still, the whole military smoking ban, in my opinion, utter bullshit.

Why? It’s healthier, right?

It’s bullshit, because it comes down to control. Legislators that apparently want to control the activity of as many people as possible. I truly believe that.

There seem to be certain people that look around for someone else that they can control, someone whose lives they can tweak and jerk around on a whim as though they were slaves, and their eyes settle on the ignorant myrmidons, the active duty military, and a piggish gleam shines in their eyes.

“Hey”, they say, “We own them, we can make them do whatever we want. They have to do what we say, or get thrown in jail. Cool. ”

And so, hey, let’s ban cigarette use for active duty military. Let’s take away their choice. We’ll save money, and that’s a good thing!

I assure you, if they could take away the ability for military personnel to vote, they would. I ain’t kidding, either.

Military personnel, so long as we continue to have an armed force consisting strictly of volunteers, so long as there remains no active draft, are free to join willingly, understanding what they’re getting in for. There are damn few people I served with that would have ever said, “Oh hell, if I serve my country they won’t let me smoke? Hell no, man, I’m gonna go to Canada instaid. Take away my right to light up, hell no.”

As we used to say, USMC, “U Signed the Muthaf&*#in Contract”. If you couldn’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined up.

Once in, service members are serving under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the rules and regulations that they live under are not the same as civilian citizens of the United States. It’s perfectly acceptable for the rules to change so it’s not allowed for service personnel to be forbidden from smoking.

Why a UCMJ? This state of affairs exists because a combat situation is no place for the rule of committee. Period. A clearly defined chain of command, top down, with specific rules of behavior, strict discipline, is critical to the continued success of our armed forces.

Do you really think this situation was put in place so that a group of legislators could decide what is best for other people, and then take steps to ban an activity… which, once banned, would mean that a violation of that ban could cause loss of rank, privilidges, and even up to or including time in the brig depending on how strict a hard ass the officer overseeing the incident chooses to be?

Personally, I don’t like smoking in my presence anymore. My home is smoke free, and Cassie and I only go to places where there is no smoking, because being around smoke makes me feel… dirty. Gets in the hair, gets in the clothes, I smell it lingering hours later, get back from the club and if there was smoking, I need to take a shower before going to bed.

That does not mean that I think that other people should have their right to choose what they want to do taken away from them.

“Oh, but it’s dangerous! They could die!”

Yes, that’s true. But in my world view, that is not a compelling argument.

Driving a car is also dangerous. Other people driving their cars around me is dangerous to me. (Especially since I’ve seen those people, and they should not be allowed to drive a golf cart, let alone an SUV. And get off the damn phone, moron! If your speed and lane stability varies once you’re on the phone, then you are too stupid to control a motor vehicle at 60 mph and talk at the same time! Shut it the *(^% off!)

Should everyone be banned from driving because they may get in an accident and die? Should you be forbidden from driving because you could get behind the wheel, get in an accident and kill someone else?

It’s regulated here, we have tests, we have laws for whats safe and whats not… but in the end, the choice of whether or not to drive is left in the hands of the citizen.

Ice skating is dangerous, skiing is dangerous, surfing and playing football and sunbathing are dangerous.

Heck, should we forbid people from going out in the sun with exposed skin because they are risking skin cancer?

No, in my opinion there is no difference in degree. It comes down to whether you think people have the right to make certain life altering decisions for themselves, or if you feel that they are cattle that need to be told what to do, whether they like it or not.

I am solidly on the side of folks having the right to do what they want, so long as what they choose to do does not harm or endanger the lives of anyone else.

If the concern is that people will smoke in enclosed areas that endanger others with second hand smoke, than regulate it, have tests, and make sure people have to be educated about smoking in well ventilated areas so as not to endanger others.

You ban it outright, and you’re showing that your only concern is control of behavior, without regard for personal choice.

I already said we don’t like second hand smoke. For us, not so much for health as for the smell and lingering odor. For Alex, we just don’t want it around him. When my mom came to visit us a few years ago, and she smokes like a chimney, she spent a lot of time out on the patio, smoking. She had the choice of staying at our house and respecting our wishes on smoking, or getting a hotel room. She stayed at the house, and she didn’t smoke in the house, because we didn’t want it in the house near our son.

Choice. We didn’t tell her she couldn’t smoke, we said she couldn’t smoke in our house. And we made damn sure there were alternatives available (like a comfy patio with chairs, umbrella, swing, coffee pot, etc.)

It’s what freedom is all about. The freedom to choose for yourself… and it seems to be the one thing that politicians truly delight in taking away from those they can.

Will it happen? It’s probably inevitable.

Will life as we know it end? No, no it won’t.

Will the Marines move on and switch to downing Monster and Red Bull (until that gets banned)? Probably. Hell, I would.

The fact of it happening isn’t all that important in the long run. You already aren’t allowed to smoke in uniform in garrison, at least you weren’t when I was in the Marines, on most bases. It looks unprofessional. You don’t do things in uniform that look unprofessional.

But this goes deeper than that, down to a desire to control the bahavior of people that enlist in the armed forces, because they can. 

It’s not mentioned as being done out of consideration for the health of the service personnel, out of kindness or human decency, it’s described as the recommendations of a study looking at whether banning tobacco use would save money in future health care costs. It would, so go do it.

Well, how much money is wasted in hospital stays due to car accidents? Maybe we should ban the use of personal automobile transportation, and switch to light rail, trains and busses for everything. It would save money in future health care costs!

In fact, let’s have a panel to examine every aspect of our lives, and if there is a potential for health care costs as the result of an activity, it should be banned… for our own good, of course.

Hey, and while we’re at it… let’s institute some controls on how much food people are allowed to eat per meal per day. We need some rationing cards. People in this country are getting too damn obese, and clearly the solution is to decide for them when they are allowed to eat, what they’re allowed to eat, and how much. That should cut down a lot of future health care costs, right?

Yeah, after all, thats’ the principle this country was founded on… the right to control or ban any behavior that might lead to increased health care costs for the government, on the average, further down the road. 

/Sigh.

Endrant, endrant, endrant.

Agree with me or not, it’s just another thing that when I read it, it makes my eyes bleed.

60 Responses to “Some things just make my eyes bleed”
  1. A Smurf says:

    @Whatsa: Having been deployed, I can think of several things vastly more enjoyable than using tobacco products, smokeless or otherwise. Short list is running and reading books, although running would be impeded slightly while forward deployed.

    On the topic of alcohol usage, I’d probably back a military ban on usage of that as well, if for no more than one reason, and one reason only: Never having to get up on my day off to go stand around in formation because some dumbass thought that he was OK to drive after knocking back some drinks. Instead, the senseless individual would be individually subjected to the Commander’s Righteous Fury without my becoming involved. But that will never happen, because the Clubs would cease to exist and AAFES would lose profits from Class 6.

  2. Mannyac says:

    Kernunos: Anything that can be done to make that easier for such a low opportunity cost (btw, a pack a day habit is up to $1700/yr for civilians, I know smokes are cheaper at the PX but still, what could you do with $1000 extra a year?

    So now it’s ok for the taxpayer to decide where a soldier spends the money they earned literally though sweat and blood?????

    Don’t even go there. I guess since WoW is such a sedentary hobby (hardly conducive to physical fitness) that maybe the soldiers that spend about $1800 a year on it should have asked permission from the taxpayers to see whether thats ok too.

    The point is that more and more of the decisions that should be left up to the INDividual are being legislated (or outright ordered) by the Federal Government.
    Are cigarettes illegal?…no. Is alcohol illegal….no. Are they bad for your health, hell yeah.
    But on the flip side to this day I still think one of the most ridiculous things the military ever did was make 21 the legal drinking age for soldiers. I know I know, but you know bullets don’t give a crap how old you are. You know how much an Abrams costs? Somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000,000 EAch. An 18 year old is responsible enough to drive one but not have a can of beer. Still haven’t wrapped my mind around that one.

  3. Kernunos says:

    The difference being, when you sign up for the military you are signing away control of your life. You can be ordered to go on a suicide mission, the military academies (West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs) train their officers to be able to follow an order they know will get them and their men killed for the good of the mission. (this is not liberal hyperbole, this is a direct quote from one of my best friends and a graduate of the Air Force Academy)

    My point was not telling people how to spend their money, when I was a heavy smoker (up to three packs a day, thank the gods my wife managed to give me incentive to quit) I was spending $40 a week on cigarettes or about $2000 a year. And I was smoking cheap stuff, and found a place I could buy a carton for $20, an unheard of price in today’s market. Most enlisted personnel live at or below the poverty line. Anything that can improve that is a step in the right direction, even if there need to be standing orders to not spend money on cigarettes. The difference between financial freedom and poverty is often only a lack of perseverance and education. The military teaches perserverance, it tries to give an education. The military has always been a pathway to social and economic mobility. Increasingly it is not offering this mobility to enlisted personnel (no facts to site here, unfortunately, but that is the impression I get from my friends still in service, all of whom are officers) but simply replacing one set of bad habits with another.

    Finally, as I age I am getting to be one of those people, I am closer now to 40 that I am to 30 and I look at 18-25 year olds (many if not most enlisted personnel) as still kids. The facts back me up. There are significant changes in brain chemistry that continue through age 25 that are similar to changes that occur during puberty. Especially in young males. They lack the physiological structures and chemical components to make rational decisions. It sounds ridiculous, but according to brain development studies and psychiatric research it is approaching certainty.

    Do I want to infringe on our servicemembers any more than we already do? No, I want a VA system that works (my father was a doctor dealing with PTSD patients and there are simply not enough hours in the day, and the structure of the bureaucracy is largely to blame.) I want people who risk their lives for the safety of me and mine to know that they are supported and they will be taken care of regardless, that their sacrifices are appreciated, and never treated in a trivial manner. That their lives are valued so that wars are not fought on a whim, that every time they are put in harms way the only reason they are there is because there was no other solution. That their causes are just, their commanders are well trained, and every politician who sits in a comfortable office while they risk their lives is forced to spend seven days living their life and taking their risks before they are allowed to speak on the subject.

  4. lethalee says:

    You quit smoking Clove ones because you heard they ‘might cause your lungs to bleed’ but you still smoked regular cigarettes despite the proven negatives?
    Sorry but that doesn’t make sense.
    Neither do arguments like, ‘we get shot out, that is 10x more dangerous than smoking, so smoking is Ok’. Im sure you wouldnt agree that other drug habits are Ok just because it’s not as bad as getting shot

  5. Adonik says:

    I agree with that entire post. This is something that’s been going on for awhile, the slow grinding away of individual liberties by the federal government. Sadly, these days you’re more likely to be considered a terrorist than a patriot for standing up for the principles this country was founded upon. I’d recommend everyone to check out campaignforliberty.com, this is an organization I support that’s currently fighting this battle.

  6. Mannyac says:

    Why not make 25 the minimum age for military serrvice then since “There are significant changes in brain chemistry that continue through age 25 that are similar to changes that occur during puberty. Especially in young males. They lack the physiological structures and chemical components to make rational decisions. It sounds ridiculous, but according to brain development studies and psychiatric research it is approaching certainty.”

    So let’s give these chemically immature brains millions of dollars in equipment, various firearms, teach’em how to kill (and hopefully survive)?

  7. Mannyac says:

    Ok so like in this case I could some definit3e cost issues:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_odd_quadrillion_dollar_debit

  8. conundrum778 says:

    I must admit that I have never entirely grasped the concept of “smoker’s rights.” It is not really mentioned in the Constitution (unless you choose to use the 9th Amendment, the most vague legal idea pretty much ever, to cover it), nor in much law. Yet I have still heard many people berate the horrible reductions to “smoker’s rights” through the years. The idea that it is merely the freedom to choose and the government telling you where to do it infringes upon said right rings hollow to me. The government says not to drink while you walk down the street in many places, or to even have an open alcohol container in your car regardless of who is drinking and who is driving. Yet nobody stands up for drinker’s rights. Skateboarders are regularly chased from public places and places that are safer for them to exercise their hobby, yet I rarely here about “skateboarder’s rights” being infringed. Fireworks? Cycling? Being homeless? All of these things have legal restrictions on where they can be done (and I would argue being homeless is less of a choice than smoking), but I hear less about all of them combined than I do about the atrocities that are being committed to “smoker’s rights.” So I have trouble understanding the concept.

    I do not think that I can really expand on a lot of the ideas of the health benefits for the military more than what others have said, but I do have a question to anyone on the side that this is an infringement on the right to choose. How do they feel about other military restrictions on choice, such as piercings (which I completely understand) or locations where one may have tattoos (which I do not entirely grasp aside from mere appearance)?

  9. Andrew A says:

    @Audrid

    Certainly agree with your basic premise, but if they can model the expected savings in future health care costs why not look at the expected future health care expenses for tobacco related health issues and tax it. If the price of tobacco included the cost of paying for this (future) negative externality then freedom of choice could be left with the individual.

  10. yunk says:

    conundrum778 most of those exampls infringe on others. Smoking usually only infringes on yourself. Yes secondhand smoke is bad mainly inside (all smoke is bad for your lungs, but if you live in a city then outdoors you’re getting smoke from cars already which is just as bad).

    The point is not “oh well we take freedoms away all the time so it’ no big deal” that’s the very defeinition of slippery slope, the way to stop a slippery slope is to not have the attitude ‘well it doesn’t matter’

    For example, alcohol has all the same problems as smoking, yet most of us would not dream of making alcohol illegal. We tried it and the costs of restricting were higher than the cost of letting people drink. That is also true of smoking: dont’ forget there is a cost to using force against your neighbors to stop them from smoking. That cost is the police, the legal system, to increase their watchfulness, they’ll need to hire more, do more paperwork. The fines for people breaking the law have to be processed. And of course there is a human cost to society of using force against others “for their own good”.

    We realized that cost was too high for alcohol. What makes anyone think the cost is not too high to force people to stop smoking? When will we realize the cost is too high to stop people from doing other drugs? There is a huge cost to making a vice a crime instead of just a vice. Always, the cost of treatment for people has been less than the cost of trying to stop them. But you will never get people to vote for treatment because “they brought it on themselves”. We’d rather fine and imprison people than help them, all in the name of “the common good”

    Then where do you stop? In the UK with “universal healthcare” you already do not have the “right” to certain surgeries if you are obese. If we are going to use force against people for smoking, certainly we would start doing the same for obesity, after all it’s already happening in the West.

    People talk about costs. they should be honest and analyze ALL the costs.

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