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New study finds that military culture enables use of tobacco for stress relief
December 8th, 2014
 
Military culture perpetuates the notion that using tobacco provides stress relief, a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion finds. But other stress relievers, such as exercise or taking meditation breaks, could be more valuable and effective than smoking breaks and avoid the health risks of tobacco.
 
"You hear from military people and even sometimes from public health professionals that soldiers need tobacco for stress relief because of their difficult circumstances," said Elizabeth Smith, Ph.D., the study's lead author and an adjunct professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
 
Yet Smith noted that studies of tobacco use for stress relief among soldiers have produced no evidence supporting the theory that tobacco use relieves stress. "Users indicate that they have more stress than nonusers and than those who have quit," Smith noted. Still, tobacco use is an accepted part of daily life in the military and users are provided with frequent breaks to smoke or use chewing tobacco.
 
Tobacco use threatens both the long-term health of enlisted personnel and their immediate readiness to perform, the authors observed, adding that tobacco's only real stress-relief component applies to relieving tension related to nicotine addiction.
 
Military tobacco use levels are high: 24 percent of military personnel are current smokers and 20 percent use smokeless tobacco. The Institute of Medicine has recommended a ban on military tobacco use. Smith noted that outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered a review of military tobacco control policies, which is ongoing.