I am a Marine serving in Afghanistan with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand province. I read Stars and Stripes regularly and I can’t thank you enough for the great coverage you give Marines "fighting the kinetic fight" in Afghanistan.

I have been following the current debate regarding the military and a possible ban on tobacco use, and I hope it never gets approved. Our government is yet again trying to tell its citizens and its military what is best for them. Our government shouldn’t treat us like children.

We as Marines, we as servicemembers and, most importantly, we as Americans have earned a voice regarding our freedoms.

Thomas Paine once said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." My generation of Marines has supported our freedoms in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. All I can ask of my government, which I solemnly swear my allegiance to, is to support my freedom to smoke.

I fully grasp the health risks regarding tobacco use, as does everyone else. As Marines, we face risk after risk, day after day. If my government were so concerned with my health, I wouldn’t be in Afghanistan right now. I would have a Kevlar helmet that could stop a 7.62 round and our Humvees would survive bomb attacks.

I understand the risks out here and I am fine with that. I joined the U.S. Marine Corps to be a part of something greater than myself and to destroy those who threaten our way of life. I just didn’t think my way of life was being threatened by the same people I am sworn to protect.

Cpl. John T. StakemanHelmand province, Afghanistan

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