In his first term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson has worked hard to form bipartisan efforts in order to benefit the public good.
We applauded Hudson for, among other issues, his efforts to pass the Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act, which would introduce greater transparency and accountability for TSA spending decisions through a series of what Hudson calls “common sense reforms.”
And regardless of which side you’re on when the Affordable Care Act comes up, one can admire and respect Hudson’s dedication to seeing his position through and not giving up.
On Friday, though, Hudson crossed a line. In a news release emailed to media outlets Friday morning, Hudson took to task the Navy and Marine Corps, leaders of which are looking to possibly ban the sale of tobacco on Navy bases, ships and Marine Corps facilities. The release came with the headline, “Hudson defends service members’ right to tobacco.”
Hudson notes service members’ risking of their lives and “devoting themselves fully to defending the United States in the face of growing national security threats. The fact that a ban on sales of a legal product is even being considered is absurd and just another example of this administration’s desire to regulate every part of our lives.”
Where was Hudson, then, when hospital and college campuses across the nation went smoke-free?
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told USAToday.com that “we demand sailors and Marines to be incredibly fit. We know tobacco hurts that fitness. We know the cost of health care far exceeds any profits we could possibly make selling that.”
Despite the congressman’s claim to the contrary, access to tobacco is not a right. In addition, service members understand there are certain privileges they might have to do without during their terms of service. Even so, the ban doesn’t mention eliminating anyone’s ability to use tobacco but simply the convenient access of purchasing tobacco in military stores.
Tobacco is, among other things, a health risk to our military service members and leaders are right to want and expect service members to be ready physically, mentally and emotionally at a moment’s notice. According to the same USAToday.com article,tobacco use costs the Department of Defense some $1.6 billion each year in medical costs and lost work time.
This move, if implemented, would simply be the latest initiative in the last 20 years used to curb smoking and tobacco use among service members.
This is where civilian oversight of the military becomes tricky. At some point, civilian overseers must acquiesce and understand that military leaders might know more about managing all the moving parts unique to military service, including personnel, and how all those parts impact operational readiness.
The news release Friday touted that Hudson was one of nearly 20 members of Congress to urge Mabus to “focus resources on projects that directly impact operations and national security …”
We think Hudson’s missed the mark on this one. The health and well-being of the force —its ability to prepare for and complete the mission —is has an immediate, direct impact on operations and, by natural extension, national security.