- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran, is fighting for soldiers’ right to smoke by offering an amendment that would stop the Pentagon’s plans to ban tobacco sales on base, the Washington Free Beacon first reported.

“We sleep in the dirt for this country. We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy,” the California Republican said Wednesday.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. If you want to make us all healthy, then let’s outlaw war, because war is really dangerous,” Mr. Hunter said. “And it was bad for my health, and it’s bad for other people’s health. So if you truly want to make it so we’re all healthy, then we shouldn’t have a military at all, because that in and of itself is dangerous.”

The House Armed Services Committee adopted Mr. Hunter’s amendment, which guarantees that products that were legally for sale on ships and bases at the beginning of the year could not be banned, the Free Beacon reported.

Rep. Susan Davis, California Democrat, objected to the amendment, arguing that promoting good health is just as important as military readiness.

“I think we need to look at smoking cessation programs, we need to look at what’s out there now, and try and improve on those,” she said. “This is not telling people that they can’t use tobacco, clearly people can go across the street almost wherever they are and purchase that. But we are sending a kind of double message, I think, by not saying that we recognize tobacco can cause damage, not only to a sailor, but also to their family, second hand smoke we know is a concern.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has voiced strong support for the tobacco ban, Stars and Stripes reported in March.

“I don’t know if there’s anybody in America who still thinks that tobacco is good for you,” he told reporters at the time. “We don’t allow smoking in any of our government buildings. Restaurants, states, [and] municipalities have pretty clear regulations on this. I think in reviewing any options that we have as to whether we in the military through commissaries [or] PXs sell or continue to sell tobacco is something we need to look at. And we are looking at it. And I think we owe it to our people.”