This summer, the U.S. Department of Defense will join the Tobacco 21 movement, as it announced today that as of Aug. 1, it will no longer allow the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 21-years-old at its installation, bases and properties.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense announced the policy change, which will apply to any retail outlet on DOD installations and facilities within the U.S. and its territories and possessions, as well as on U.S. naval vessels at a U.S. port. Those outlets will be required to post signs no later than July 1 informing customers of the policy change, which will apply to traditional tobacco products as well as electronic nicotine delivery systems.
The change will bring DOD retail outlets into compliance with an increase in the tobacco purchasing age that was made at the federal level in December 2019. Since that time, a number of states and local municipalities have passed their own pieces of legislation in order to align their laws with the federal law, as tobacco purchasing age violations are generally enforced at the local level. That meant that for a city or state-employed law enforcement officer to cite a business, those laws had to reflect the minimum age to purchase tobacco being 21-years-old.
The policy change comes both for the health of current members of the military, as well as the soldier of the future, as the Army has already stated its goal of eliminating tobacco use by 2025.
“Army Public Health Center’s challenge goal is to eliminate tobacco use from the Army by 2025,” said Corey Fitzgerald, APHC’s public health social worker. “The Soldier of 2025 is in middle school today. We highlight the Tobacco Free Living program on our website to help Soldiers, Family members, Department of the Army Civilians, and military retirees, adopt lifestyles that prevent the initiation of tobacco use, help those who want to quit tobacco succeed, live free from the effects of second and third-hand smoke exposure, and create tobacco free zones where children live, learn and play.”
According to the APHC 2018 Health of the Force report, 23 percent of soldiers reported tobacco use with prevalence ranging from 8.3 percent to 31 percent across Army installations. Smokers under the age of 25 are the largest group represented. Across the age groups, the prevalence of tobacco use among male soldiers was more than double that of female soldiers.
“For this policy to be effective at increasing the readiness and health of our Army, leaders at all levels need to communicate support of Tobacco 21 laws,” said Fitzgerald. “Tobacco 21 with no military exemption was passed because the health of our young soldiers is just as important as their civilian peers.”