Durbin Provision To Reduce Risks Of Tobacco Related Illness Among Servicemembers Included in Defense Authorization Bill

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, today applauded the inclusion of a provision in the compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that eliminates the military’s price discount for tobacco products. Durbin authored a similar provision in the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill, which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year. Almost one-quarter of U.S. servicemembers smoke, and more than one in three military smokers began doing so after enlisting. The NDAA – the final result of negotiations between the House and Senate Armed Services committees – was filed in the House of Representatives earlier today.

“Smoking rates among servicemembers are 20 percent higher than the rest of America and use of 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. Ending this price subsidy is a commonsense reform that will protect the health of our nation’s troops. I look forward to reviewing the Defense Department’s upcoming evaluation of tobacco use in the military, and to working with the Department to tackle this culture of tobacco use head on.”

Studies show that a ten percent increase in cigarette prices reduces consumption by 3 to 5 percent among adults. Yet, tobacco sold at military exchanges is subject to a 5 percent discount compared to prices in the local community, and because of lax enforcement and ill-defined community comparisons, discounts can be as high as 25 percent off or more.  The provision included in the NDAA and the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill fully eliminates these price discounts on tobacco products sold on military installations.

In July, Durbin wrote Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging the Department to eliminate the military’s price discount for tobacco products and to act aggressively to reduce the risks tobacco poses to our service members. A copy of that letter is available here.

In June, Durbin chaired a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Fiscal Year 2015 funding requests for the Department of Defense (DOD). 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 servicemembers. Video of Durbin’s remarks at that hearing are available here.

Durbin’s provision is supported by the Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Public Health Association, and the Commissioned Officers Association.