In August of 1977....I "shipped" off to Air Force basic training. It was about five weeks into this six-week period....that we came to do a all-day hike or march.....to another part of the installation, and I was introduced to the C-rations package.
It was a cardboard box....similar in size to a cigar box, and had several food items to provide nourishment. To be fair about it....it's wasn't bad....but it wasn't going to be something that I could eat daily for weeks (like they did in Vietnam). I should note here....it was the first and last time I ever ate C-Rations. Within two years....they'd gone to some modern new technology, and six years later....MREs finally arrived.
Amongst the items of the box....was a small cardboard container with two cigarettes. As part of your nourishment.....you were given some matches and these two cigarettes. Brand? I don't remember that part. No.....I didn't even smoke them. One of the heavier smokers in the flight picked up everyone's unused smokes for use later.
Over the twenty-two years in the Air Force.....I came to note fifty odd experiences around cigarettes, smokers, and smoke-breaks. I worked early on with one Vietnam vet NCO who sat in the office for eight hours and chain-smoked.....his ash tray by 4PM was completely full and overflowing.
While stationed at Barksdale....the barracks had an unknown natural gas leak....which got noted in a substantial way after a guy had showered and come back to the room to chill....while lighting a cigarette (some pretty nasty burns over his face).
Three years ago while working at the Pentagon, I watched a fairly hostile discussion erupt over the planned idea of banning all smoking from the center courtyard of the building. Smokers versus non-smokers.....all enthusiastic about their way of life and the need to fix a problem.
This past week....the Secretary of Defense got peppy on the idea of banning cigarette sales at the BX and commissary system. In his eyes....the sales are unhealthy and the discounted sales are a bad thing. It's not just about throwing a fake variant of cost onto the sales.....the idea is to plain ban all sales.
Smokers have put up a strong argument about this....why not ban beer and booze sales on all posts and bases as well? The club management guys and golf course managers are a disturbed over that suggestion.....at least a quarter of their profits come from beer and booze.
What happens if the ban takes effect? I'm guessing some folks will want soda sales banned as part of the blame process.....as well as high-sugar candy items. Toss in Pop-tarts, and a dozen other 'bad' items that the BX regularly sells.
Some guys will start to appear around base....with cigarettes to sell....privately. If you deploy somewhere....a guy will be standing there with a full bag of cigarettes....selling for two-hundred percent of the normal cost. Sarge will get all angry about the cost factor, and the Colonel will yack for hours over this terrible climate of capitalism.
Some folks will start to devise smoking areas that are five-hundred to a thousand feet from the office building....just make life more miserable for the smokers.
It's an odd feeling to view my introduction to military smoking on that hot August day in 1977....sitting under some shaded area.....enjoying the basic grub of a C-Rations package.....and noting those two free cigarettes at the bottom of the cardboard box. They were literally giving them away to me. Now? Banning possible?