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Crackdown on troops smoking takes new form: Senate wants to squash discount

The discount that U.S. troops get when buying tobacco products on base was killed on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Defense Department photo)

Tobacco and military service have been closely aligned for years, with iconic photographs depicting troops sparking up a cigarette or cigar in celebration of a successful mission. But the practice is under fire: The Pentagon is considering whether to ban the sale of tobacco products on military bases, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said recently that he wants the service chiefs to weigh in.

Capitol Hill isn’t waiting for that, however. The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved a $549.3 billion defense spending bill on Tuesday that would kill the 25 percent discount that service members get when buying tobacco products on military installations, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

It’s a compromise of sorts if it ends there. The move would allow tobacco sales to continue on bases at supermarkets and convenience stores, but end the U.S. government’s subsidizing of those purchases. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has yet to come back with a plan of its own. 

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.

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