The U.S. Military Has Officially Turned on Vapes

E-cig panic reaches the greatest force for good on Earth.
Soldiers like to vape. But it's getting harder thanks to an e-cig panic.

Prohibition has come for America's troops.

On Tuesday, Stars and Stripes reported that electronic cigarettes and vape products would no longer be available to purchase at on-base stores—yet another fierce response to the spate of vape-linked deaths that have continued to crop up around the country.

"Until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to collect information on e-cigarette and vape products is complete, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is removing these products from its assortment, effective close of business September 30," Chris Ward, the senior public affairs manager for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service—the Department of Defense's worldwide retailer—said in a statement.


Earlier in September, the Army Public Health Center reportedly alerted its service members to the potential consequences of vaping, but otherwise, on vapes, the military has been late to the party. Most notably, last Friday, Walmart revealed that it would take its e-cigarettes and vapes off the shelves—around the same time it was discovered that JUUL, the vape powerhouse that controls around two-thirds of the U.S. market, appeared to be under various forms of criminal investigation. Cities like San Francisco and states like New York and Michigan have, in various ways, already moved to ban vape products as well, and on Tuesday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker instituted a temporary ban on all vaping products in his state. Even President Trump has urged the Food and Drug Administration to take flavored e-cigs off the market, full stop.

While this kind of top-down reaction has also been chastised by harm-reduction proponents, who believe it could further drive users to a dangerous black market, a blanket vape ban within the military is not exactly shocking, or without historical resonance.

For decades, tobacco companies explicitly targeted soldiers, and cigarettes became so ubiquitous that they were included in rations during World War II. According to Truth Initiative, a nonprofit advocating for tobacco control, as of 2011, 24 percent of "military personnel" smoked tobacco, as opposed to 19 percent of civilian Americans. (It was most common in the Marine Corps, which then hovered around 30 percent use.) JUUL has even provided discounts for military members and first responders: The behemoth once had a $1 starter kit available at its own store if you fell into one of those groups, and currently offers a 15 percent discount for refill pods, a company spokesman confirmed.

If they want to keep vaping after September 30, that's probably what a fair number of soldiers are going to do.

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