WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing the detrimental effects that smoking has on the health of service members facing torture and near starvation while imprisoned in oft-brutal conditions, the Pentagon announced Monday it was taking steps to ban tobacco use for all prisoners of war through an amendment to the U.S. Code of Fighting Forces, more commonly referred as the Code of Conduct.
If adopted by Congress, Article 7 of the code would read:
“I recognize that smoking and dipping are a detriment to my health and to the health of my fellow prisoners. If I am senior, I will take steps to encourage tobacco cessation amongst my subordinates. If not, I will do everything in my power to encourage a smoke-free environment for my superiors, my comrades, and my captors.”
“Smoking keeps our troops from maintaining a state of peak physical condition, so this is first and foremost a readiness issue,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who is one of a handful of high profile DoD officials calling for a change to the directive. “History has shown that POWs typically have a difficult enough time as it is staying physically fit, so we believe adding this new article onto the Code of Conduct will give them a helpful push in the right direction when it comes to kicking their nicotine addiction.”
Though the Code of Conduct is not part of formal military law — and is therefore unenforceable under laws of military justice — Mabus said he and other backers of the tobacco ban have faith that any future American POWs would adhere to an “honor system” by “keeping each other in check” whenever any individual should have the urge to smoke or chew tobacco around his or her fellow captives.
“We’re counting on peer pressure,” Mabus explained. “And this change to the code should make anybody in captivity feel empowered to suggest their comrades practice deep breathing exercises, chew on a stick of gum, or take a walk around their space — assuming walking is an option — as an alternative to tobacco use.”
If the DoD is successful in getting Congress to adopt Article 7, Mabus said the Pentagon would then begin reviewing additional proposed amendments to the Code of Conduct for POWs to adhere to. Chief among them would be Article 8, which addresses proper uniform wear while in captivity, and Article 9, which stresses the importance of good nutrition.