Tobacco Pricing in Military Stores: Views of Military Policy Leaders

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Abstract

Introduction:

Higher tobacco taxes reduce tobacco use. On military installations, cigarettes and other tobacco products are sold tax-free, keeping prices artificially low. Pricing regulations in the military specify that tobacco should be within 5% of the local most competitive price, but prices still average almost 13% lower than those at local Walmarts.

Methods:

To gain insight into policy leaders’ ideas and positions on military tobacco pricing, we interviewed members of the Department of Defense (DoD) Addictive Substances Misuse Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on Tobacco about tobacco pricing policies (n = 12).

Results:

Participants frequently lacked specific knowledge of details of military pricing policy, and the impact higher prices might have on military tobacco use. Most participants thought tobacco should not be sold at military stores, but many also felt that this policy change was unlikely due to tobacco industry pressure, and DoD reliance on tobacco profits to support Morale, Welfare, and Recreation funds.

Conclusions:

Achieving a tobacco-free military will require changing pricing policy, but this study suggests that for effective implementation, military leadership must also understand and articulate more clearly the rationale for doing so.

Implications:

Previous work has found that adherence to military tobacco pricing policy is inconsistent at best. This study suggests that lack of knowledge about the policy and conflicting pressures resulting from the funding stream tobacco sales represent extend to high level military policy leaders. Without clearer information and direction, these leaders are unlikely to be able to establish and implement better tobacco pricing policy.

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