Beginning Saturday, the U.S. military will no longer sell tobacco products to any service member younger than 21, with a larger goal to completely eliminate tobacco use from the service by 2025.
It's part of a $1.4 trillion spending package signed President Donald Trump in December. The policy also puts the military in line with Texas and other states which raised their tobacco age to 21.
Rod Windham, statewide political coordinator at iHeartMedia Houston, served as an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam. He calls the new policy absurd.
“Since the beginning of the military, when they take breaks it's like 'Smoke 'em if you've got 'em,'” he says. “If you're going to draft them to put their lives on the line for the country, they should be allowed to make that decision on their own, and not have to wait three years.”
Arthur Rizer is an Iraq war veteran and senior fellow at the R Street Institute. He says the military should instead use health care incentives or phase-out the use of tobacco.
“We've done it by not allowing it during basic training, which I think is a wonderful idea,” he says. “It's a limited amount of time. You're supposed to be doing other things. A lot of people graduate basic training and don't go back to smoking at all.”
Rizer fears the new policy will lead to a black market of tobacco on military bases. “You're going to put soldiers in a position where that is exactly what's going to happen.”