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Gates to GIs: Smoke 'em if you got 'em

  |   July 15, 2009 at 7:20 PM
WASHINGTON, July 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has no intention of telling troops they can't smoke cigarettes in war zones, his press secretary said Wednesday.

Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told American Forces Press Service Gates had not reviewed a Pentagon report that proposes a ban on smoking by military personnel. The study, done by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, is said to recommend strict controls on tobacco products.

Morrell said Gates is likely to consider some of the recommendations but will not ban tobacco use by deployed forces.

"(Gates) has been very clear to me up front that one of the things he is not prepared to do is to restrict use of tobacco products in combat zones," he said.

"We are fighting two wars right now using a force that we are demanding more of than we ever have before. They are under enormous stress and strain, and the secretary does not want to compound that stress by taking away one of the few outlets they may have to relieve that stress."

That is not to say Gates doesn't share health concerns posed by tobacco products, Morrell said.

"Obviously, it is not our preference to have a force that is using tobacco products," he said.

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