Throwing a rock at their armored tank-: civilian authority and military tobacco controlReport as inadecuate

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BMC Public Health

, 14:1292

Health policies, systems and management in high-income countries


BackgroundTobacco use is a major cause of chronic disease, disability and death among military personnel and veterans. However, civilian public health and tobacco control advocates have been relatively silent on the issue. Research on the tobacco industry shows a long history of interference in military tobacco policy through relationships with the United States US Congress. The military cannot autonomously implement tobacco control, but is subject to Congressional oversight. Thus, the primary obstacles to effective tobacco control in the military are Congressional political opposition and tobacco industry influence, and by extension, a lack of civilian awareness and support in the policy arena.

MethodsAs part of a larger project to explore the topic of civilian support for military tobacco control, we analyzed data from focus groups with public health professionals to better understand their sense of agency and authority in regards to military tobacco control. Researchers conducted 4 focus groups with a total of 36 public health professionals at key conferences for those working in public health and tobacco control. Data were coded and the research team developed an interpretive account that captured patterns and variations in the data.

ResultsPublic health and tobacco control participants shared a sense of futility regarding civilian efforts to engage in military tobacco control. This stemmed from feeling ignorant of military culture and structure, identifying powerful discourses that opposed tobacco control, particularly in a military context, and the very-real presence of the tobacco industry lobby throughout the policy process.

ConclusionsA strong public health voice on military tobacco control might serve to begin problematizing the tobacco industry’s influence in the military policy arena. As the military moves to institute stronger tobacco control policy, public health and tobacco control professionals should work to engage with and aid its efforts from the outside. Only with such civilian side support can the goal of a tobacco free military be realized.

KeywordsTobacco control Military Public health Policy Civilian  Download fulltext PDF

Author: Quinn Grundy - Elizabeth A Smith - Ruth E Malone


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