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GOP Rep. Hunter slams reported proposal to ban tobacco sales on Navy bases, ships

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Sept. 21, 2012: A French speedboat deployed from the back of the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf passes by the U.S. Navy's floating base used to support mine countermeasure operations.AP

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter is speaking out against a reported proposal being considered by the Navy to ban the sale of tobacco products on all its bases and ships, calling it a “political decision.”

The Military Times reported Monday that Navy officials are considering removing tobacco from all retail outlets, including exchange-operated sales venues and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program outlets.  Navy commissaries do not sell tobacco products.

Hunter, a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, said in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus he strongly opposes the ban, saying it will limit or restrict service members from purchasing legal products.

 “While I recognize the Navy believes removing tobacco products would help in ‘maximizing the readiness’ of sailors and Marines, it’s my belief that the Navy should worry less about intruding on the personal-decision making of these same sailors and Marines, while creating added burdens in the process,” Hunter wrote.

Hunter said the decision to ban cigarette sales would be a “political decision to make a point,” rather than one that will actually help the troops. He added he thinks that the Navy and Marines Corps should have more pressing issues to attend to than tobacco.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty told the Military Times that there have been discussions about tobacco sales, but that no decision has been made.

The Navy has taken steps in recent years to discourage tobacco sales, such as eliminating sales in its commissaries and removing discounts on tobacco prices in Navy and Marine Corps exchanges in 2012, according to the Military Times.