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No tobacco ban for US soldiers in combat: Pentagon

US soldiers serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will still have access to cigarettes despite a report urging a tobacco-free military force, the Pentagon has said.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2009 23:45 IST

US soldiers serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will still have access to cigarettes despite a report urging a tobacco-free military force, the Pentagon has said.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates has no plans to ban the sale of cigarettes or chewing tobacco for troops doing combat duty, his press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters on Wednesday.

"He knows that the situation they are confronting is stressful enough as it is, and I don't think he is interested in adding to their stress levels by taking away one of the few outlets they may have to relieve stress," Morrell said.

"And that may be chewing tobacco or smoking a cigarette." The comments came after a recently released report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report called for adopting measures that could make the military "virtually tobacco-free within 20 years."

The Defence Department spent USD 564 million in 2006 treating tobacco-related illness in the military, the report said.

It found the proportion of smokers in the US armed forces is higher than in the civilian population, with around 32 per cent of soldiers using tobacco products, compared to 20 per cent of civilians.