Exchanges, which are unsubsidized, sell goods at a discount approaching 20%. In 1996, policy was changed to bring commissary prices for tobacco products into line with exchange prices (Smith et al., 2007). Because the 1986 DoD authorization bill included language prohibiting price increases in commissaries, the price increase was achieved by requiring commissaries to sell tobacco products on consignment for exchanges. Tobacco sales fell by 27% after the policy change, but revenues from tobacco increased by $75 million (Smith et al., 2007).
Despite the changes in tobacco pricing on military bases mentioned above, there is virtually no evidence on how the changes have affected smoking behavior in the military (as opposed to tobacco purchases in the commissaries). Nelson and Pederson (2008) reviewed over 80 studies on the correlates of tobacco use in the military. Only one study mentioned price as a factor in the perception of a “mixed message” from the military, that is, promoting tobacco cessation but discounting the price of tobacco (Nelson and Pederson, 2008).
The 1999 strategic plan calls for support of pricing tobacco-cessation products below the local competitive price (Requirement C.1.7). Tobacco-cessation products are not mentioned specifically in DeCA directives, but DoD Instruction 1330.21 (2005) states that “Armed Service Exchanges shall endeavor to display tobacco-cessation products in areas that provide visibility and opportunity to customers who desire to change their tobacco habits” and that “military departments shall support the pricing of smoking-cessation products below the local competitive price.”
Finding: DoD indirectly encourages the use of tobacco by military personnel and dependents via the availability of discounted tobacco products in the exchange and commissary system in deployed and nondeployed locations.
Recommendation: DoD should discontinue selling tobacco products on military installations. Until all tobacco sales are stopped, DoD should discontinue selling tobacco products at a discount; require separate, restricted access areas for sale and display of tobacco products; prohibit all promotion and advertising of tobacco products in exchanges and commissaries; and provide tobacco-cessation information, such as quitline telephone numbers, at all points of sale. At the very least, tobacco products should not be sold in Army and Air Force commissaries.