July is a month that we think of our nation’s independence. We cannot do that without thinking of how through the years the sacrifices young Americans in military have given. But have you given pause to consider not only war hazards but the tobacco addiction and disease addiction history that was created by the tobacco industry and politicians and has diminished our militaries readiness.

In 1917, before World War 1, cigarettes (a four pack) became a standard in K-ration boxes which meant soldiers received 12 cigarettes per day. If a soldier wanted more, they were a nickel a pack or 50 cents a carton. As a result, tobacco consumption skyrocketed during the war.  At that time, tobacco was considered so important for soldiers’ morale and fighting boredom, General Pershing said “You ask me what we need to win this war. I answer tobacco as much as bullets. Tobacco is as indispensable as the daily ration; we must have thousands of tons without delay”.

Even when the military decided to stop supplying cigarettes to servicemen and women, big tobacco began sending free cigarettes to the military. When the military declined their offer, politicians from states where tobacco was produced intervened.

Years ago, I was working with our local V.A. Hospital to become a Tobacco-Free Hospital. That’s not possible because by U.S. law, every V.A. must provide a heated and airconditioned facility for veterans in which to smoke. I visited this site. It was a very large greenhouse-like building at the back of the V.A. Hospital.  Some vets would walk back there with their oxygen tanks, park them outside, and go inside to smoke. I talked to some who had gone through heart surgeries, those who had COPD, and several who had amputations.  I spoke to one of the maintenance workers and he told me that they had to change the air filters every month.

If we are addicted, we are never free. May freedom ring.