8 Jun 2017

Military smokefree policy a drag, Minister says

7:24 pm on 8 June 2017

Extending a smokefree policy to military housing areas would be a step too far, the Defence Minister says.

Last month the the Defence Force announced that it intended to be the world's first smokefree military by 2020.

It's planning to do that by banning the sale of cigarettes on camps and bases, as well as making its military housing smokefree.

According to the Defence Force's own statistics, about 10 to 12 percent of its personnel are smokers.

The Navy had the highest rate at 14 percent, 12 percent in the Army and 5 percent for the Air Force.

Defence Minister Mark Mitchell was asked at a select committee whether that should apply to soldiers in combat zones overseas.

"Any of our people deployed overseas in a high stress environment, if they feel like they want to have a cigarette as part of their stress relief, they should be able to do that," he said.

Mr Mitchell was also reluctant to extend the smoking ban to housing provided for soldiers and their families.

The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating said they would not be enforcing the policy through any punitive measures.

He said as part of the 'Smokefree by 2020' goal he would prefer to encourage military staff to cut down on smoking by creating a healthier environment, rather than enacting an outright ban with punitive measures.

"What we intend to do is have a goal to get our people to be healthy and well," he said.