May 8 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense announced this week that effective Aug. 1, retailers on U.S. military installations and bases will no longer sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, including service members.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense published a policy raising the federal minimum sale of of tobacco products to 21, which is in line with new federal law that raises the age, the Army said in a press release.
The new policy applies to DoD installations within the United States and its territories, as well as Naval vessels at U.S. ports.
Retail outlets will be required to post signs July 1 announcing the change.
"Research has shown that raising the legal age of sale to 21 would likely reduce youth tobacco initiation and use," said Corey Fitzgerald, Army Public Health Center public health social worker. "Nearly all smokers start as children or young adults and these groups are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. Early onset of tobacco use increases risks of smoking-related illnesses and death."
The policy brings DoD facilities into line with federal legislation passed in December that raises the federal minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21.
The law took effect immediately, but government officials were given nine months to create rules for enforcement.
Fitzgerald said his department's goal is to eliminate tobacco use from the Army by 2025, and has created a tobacco-free living toolkit to help soldiers quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco.
According to the APHC Health of the Force report, 23 percent of soldiers reported tobacco use, with smokers under the age of 25 being the largest group represented and men smoking at twice the rate of prevalence as women.