Diggers turn to smoking to fight off stress and boredom
Sailors pay between $4 and $7 a pack duty free, depending on the ship, and are limited to two packs a day.
Troops deployed to Afghanistan light up at alarming rates and purchase cigarettes for just $1 a packet at the base in Tarin Kowt, compared with $16 to $18 at shops in Australia.
The cheap smokes are made from low grade tobacco and contain much higher levels of dangerous additives such as arsenic and ammonia than cigarettes sold in Australia.
Many Diggers with a mild or even no habit when they arrive in-country often return home heavily addicted and smoking a pack a day.
Boredom and stress are contributors and a “durry” has traditionally been one of a soldier’s few pleasures.
According to the latest statistics, 33 per cent of the Australian Defence Force’s 58,000 members – about 20,000 people – reported smoking during the past year.
Forty two per cent said they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime.
The latest official figures from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey show 18.1 per cent of Australians have smoked cigarettes during the past year.
Just 23.4 per cent said they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.
According to smoking data from the 2010 ADF Mental Health Prevalence and Wellbeing Study, military personnel said they are more likely to smoke while deployed.
“ADF members who have deployed at least once in their career report higher levels of smoking in the past 12 months.” the study said.
Defence was unable to say how much per packet sailors paid on board ships in international waters.
Cigarette prices are set by individual commands.
“In some ships the full excise-free price is paid but it many instances prices have been set up to the normal retail price obtained ashore,” it said.
Such is the extent of the problem with tobacco and alcohol addiction that Joint Health Command is hiring eight alcohol, tobacco and other drugs officers, to be located at major bases around the country.
“These ATODS officers will have the responsibility for tobacco education and Quit programs, and work directly with the Cancer Council,” Defence said.
Defence also provides free medication to ADF members to assist with giving up smoking as part of their health care entitlement.
According to the military, smoking receives “significant attention” in mandatory pre-deployment briefings conducted for troops.