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On the march - PC brigade is now taking over the army

I was on BBC Radio York this morning responding to a story that was reported yesterday but was initially revealed on social media over the weekend.

According to BBC News:

Smoking and vaping is to be banned at the UK's only Army training centre for teenage recruits.

Hundreds of junior soldiers pass through the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate each year.

Its commanding officer Lt Col Richard Hall said it was "unacceptable" that "most recruits don't smoke on arrival, yet most do by graduation".

New recruits will be barred from smoking next week, with a complete ban on smoking and vaping on site by 2020.

In a statement, Lt Col Hall said the ban was in order to develop recruits' health and fitness.

He added: "I hope that this will discourage smoking amongst new recruits and reverse the recent trend we've seen in recruits taking up the habit."

As I explained to the presenter on BBC Radio York, it’s a slightly difficult subject for Forest to respond to because we don’t want to be accused of supporting 16 and 17-year-olds who smoke or vape.

Nevertheless, I did point out that it is not illegal to smoke or vape at 16 or 17. The law merely bans the sale of tobacco to under 18s.

Therefore, threatening to charge young soldiers for smoking (or vaping) seems to me rather unfair, if not a classic case of discrimination.

I suspect the ruling could be challenged in court but I’m not going to risk Forest’s money on an uncertain outcome, especially when such a case would win little public support and would be defended by the army with taxpayers’ money.

The point is, to be found guilty of a chargeable offence and have that on your army record could have an adverse effect on a young soldier’s career. Is smoking really such a terrible thing to do, even at 16 or 17?

Banning young recruits from smoking also ignores two major issues that affect young soldiers - boredom and stress. Prohibiting a habit that helps relieve those two factors doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you have a plan to replace it with something else.

On Twitter over the weekend Lt Col Richard Hall was keen to talk about “protecting” young people’s health. Others have suggested that recruits will be physically fitter and healthier if they don’t start smoking.

Really? When did ‘not smoking’ become a factor in being a physically fit soldier? Are there any studies - with groups of young soldiers who smoke pitted against young recruits who don’t smoke - that prove this point?

Smoking-related illnesses are, by and large, problems that affect people in later life, decades after they have left the army.

I’m not suggesting the army should have no interest in a soldier’s future welfare, but smoking is a matter of choice and I’m not aware of evidence that suggests it can seriously impair a soldier’s ability to do his job.

Talking of which, there is a certain irony, is there not, that within a year or two of joining the army young recruits may find themselves dodging bullets in a war zone. Oddly enough, the army seems fine about that!

Frankly, this seems to be yet another example of the middle class (in this case officers) dictating how the ‘plebs’ (aka the rank and file soldier) should live their lives.

And don’t think this is aimed exclusively at junior soldiers. As Lt Col Hall made clear on Twitter, from 2020 all soldiers will be banned from lighting up in front of recruits on camp.

In other words, it’s a Trojan horse. Eventually all soldiers, regardless of their age, will be barred from lighting up (except, perhaps, senior officers who will still be allowed to smoke a cigar with a glass of brandy in the officers’ mess).

The PC brigade is well and truly on the march. The army is their latest conquest.

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Reader Comments (2)

It is not about smoking. It is a war on smokers. Why should they worry about ruining a young smoker's life? They don't. After all, they see smokers as scum and to them the only good smoker is dead or penitent. Fcuk them and the pathetic smokerphobic thugs who would rather see a 16 year old get their legs blown off than have an occasional cigarette to deal with the trauma that a life in the army and in active service can bring. That is why young recruits start smoking in the army and not because they see some older soldier smoking.

The problem with smokerphobic bullies is that they prejudge smokers and have absolutely no idea why smokers start smoking in the first place but why try and understand it when encouraging a hate and bullying campaign against recruits can work so much better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 12:51 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I served in the military, and when the anti smokers commenced their war of attrition it was certainly a starter for the commanding officers who wanted to be seen to be pc, however they could only stop you smoking whilst in uniform or indoors, they cannot order you to stop anywhere outside except perhaps on base as he is god there. If any soldier or cadet is ordered to not smoke otherwise, it can be classed as an illegal order as smoking is legal even for a person under eighteen. An illegal order can be lawfully refused with no chargeable actions after

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 17:43 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

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