A Veteran’s Response to Big Tobacco
When asked about Big Tobacco, retired US Air Force veteran Shawn Bennett replied that it should “absolutely” be treated as a domestic threat.
It’s long been acknowledged that the military is a target demographic for the tobacco industry. “There is absolutely a culture of smoking in the military,” Shawn said. “When our military members get a break, they go to the PX or the BX, and cigarettes are always readily available right at the counter. They’re everywhere, always.”
After his father passed away from cancer due to smoking, Shawn found the motivation to kick the addiction he’d had for nearly 30 years. Before he died, his father confided that one thing that helped him quit cold turkey was reading that smoking was a sign of weakness. “The first thing I did after he died was throw away half a pack of cigarettes,” Shawn said.
“It’s horrible and tragic that a person dies from smoking, but it’s also horrible how it affects the family,” Shawn said. “I have a grandson now. All the people I know who have died of cancer, they’re not able to see their daughter’s wedding or their grandchildren. The collateral damage, all the other people that are affected. Everybody’s young and dumb and makes stupid choices, but those are things that never crossed my mind.”
The cigarette culture in the military is so omnipresent that social isolation is often the only way to quit. “When I quit, I had to stay out of environments that encouraged smoking, like going out with my friends, watching sporting events, going out to bars on the weekends. That’s when everybody smokes. I just stayed away from all that,” Shawn said.
When asked what he would say to other veterans who smoke, Shawn answered, “It’s affecting you even if you don’t know it. It’s affecting people around you. The people who love you don’t want to get into an argument about it, but it does bother them.” He paused before adding, “Find any way you can to quit.”