Navy Considers Ban on Tobacco Sales at Exchange Stores

Image: USS Kidd deployed in search for missing MH370
A handout image made available by the US Navy shows the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) as she transits the Pacific Ocean on 09 February 2012. MC3 KENNETH ABBATE /US NAVY / HA / EPA

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The Navy is considering a ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at Navy and Marine Corps exchange stores.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus met with his staff last week and asked them to examine the impact of ending the sale of tobacco on base, two defense officials told NBC News.

The possible move is part of an initiative to improve the culture of fitness in the services.

Among the issues that will need to be resolved is whether to ban sales only on installations in the United States or to extend the ban overseas.

Other considerations are whether to ban tobacco products in combat zone bases, such as Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan and on ship stores.

Mabus already has halted price subsidies for tobacco products on bases, but his staff said banning all products is still "in the early stages of this process."

Still, despite all the unanswered questions, one defense official said this new policy could be implemented as early as Oct. 1.

"We've already taken one step by ending price subsidies for tobacco products, and Secretary Mabus has asked his staff to look at additional ways to improve the health and readiness of our force,” said Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, spokeswoman for the secretary. “We are in the early stages of this process.”

Congress is already considering a Pentagon-recommended $1 billion cut to subsidies at stateside commissaries frequented by military and veteran families, a change that could triple the cost of household goods.

— Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube