But troops may not be able to handle losing their free smokes. “Tobacco shortages will affect the psychology of the smokers,” Valentina Melnikova, executive secretary of the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee, a human rights organization focused on the military, told Izvestia. “Platoon or company commanders will start collecting money from the ranks, including non-smokers. This will result in speculation, extortion, bullying and even violence.” (In case you were wondering, the Defense Department gave U.S. troops free cigarettes until 1975.)
The reason, Melnikova implies, is that troops won’t necessarily quit smoking, and won’t have enough money to pay for cigarettes over the counter, leading to a black market within the military. It wasn’t until January that service members saw a raise from 500 to 1,000 rubles, or $16.50 to $32 per month. Before the raise, many soldiers spent much of their take-home pay on cigarettes, according to RIA Novosti, even with the government ration. (Smoking’s expensive.) Izvestia also suggests that troops would need their salaries to quadruple to support their habit.