Cigs were widely distributed to the troops in World War II. Each soldier in the field got (when possible) one carton of cigs per week, plus 12 cigs per day in thier rations. Each ration (breakfast, lunch and dinner) contained 4 cigs and some toilet paper.
I can’t say for sure about the Korean and Vietnam wars, however I would highly doubt that today’s soldiers are given cigs by the military. Given the health concerns and the anti-smoking attitude that is prevelant today I can’t see it happening. With that said those who smoke probably purchase thier own at the PX or from civilians.
As far as the lighter, I have no clue, although I do recall that matches were included in thier rations (WWII).
Aside from the health issues, it’s interesting that today, we think of smoking as inherently dangerous for a soldier in the field, because the aroma and smoke would be dead giveaways. But in those days, everyone was doing it, so it didn’t make any difference.
According to my husband, who enlisted in the Army in 1968, those were indeed C-rations which included cigarettes. Since he doesn’t smoke, he used to trade with the other guys for their candy.
When we lived in Germany, every military member, and every adult dependent, received a yearly ration card, which was used to buy cigarettes and liquor through the exchange system. These items were horrendously expensive, and the use of ration cards helped to cut down on Gis setting up shop to turn a profit on the German economy.
C-rations were phased out when MREs became available.
Some sources like that one I linked to claimed they were officially called “MCIs”, for “Meal, Combat, Individual”, but they resembled the C ration, and soldiers like your husband continued to call them that.
At the distances modern fighting takes place, both of those aspects are wholly negligible - in most non-MOUT situations, soldiers are going to open up on vague human-shaped blurs in the distance or specks of light in their NVGs/IR screens, if they even see what they’re shooting at. Cigarettes might stink, but they don’t stink 300-800 meters away (I hope :p).
My dad got them in his rations in Korea, 1952. He claimed the army was generous with smokes because studies had shown GI’s who smoked were more likely to volunteer for extra duties and special operations. No cite, just my father’s say-so.
My husband was stationed in Spain from 1976-1980, and we were married for the last two years that he was there. Both of us were issued cards which allowed us to buy cigarettes, liquor, and gas on base, for a fairly low price. The base carried American brands of cigs and booze. From what I understand, the cigs that were available in Spain were much stronger and harsher, as a general rule. Most nonsmokers bought cartons of cigarettes and sold them on the black market, and made some decent money at this. I didn’t do this.
For the record, Winston seemed to be the most popular brand to sell.
I can personally verify that cigarettes (a pack of four) were included in the C-Rat box, along with matches, during Vietnam. In fact, you would still find them after VN, because there were still a lot of C-rats in circulation which were issued on field exercises (war games). Non-smokers would usually trade them for canned fruit for for some meal that was better than “ham & motherfuckers”. I bought tax-free cigs at the PX in Vietnam for $.15 per pack.
By the early 1980s when out in the field we were eating a mixture of the old canned MRIs & the new bagged MREs. The oldest MRI I can recall seeing was dated around 1973. None that I ever encountered contained cigs.
IIRC the MRIs often contained a small book of matches which had many uses besides lighting cigarettes. In fact most of us carried a disposable lighter whether we smoked or not. As best I recall, the MREs never contained matches.
I never smoked, so I don’t recall whether cigs sold on-base were especiailly cheap whether overseas or Stateside. Booze was a bit cheaper than out on the civilian economy, but not enough to make a living doing black market sales. I never saw or heard of any kind of ration system for BX/PX-purchased booze or cigs duing my time with USAF or USA.
Leo, as you’ve heard, modern day MRE’s do contain matches but not cigarettes. As far as where you are able to get cigarettes while at a remote FOB or other outpost, it depends.
When I was in Iraq we actually bought them from the locals many times. If the convoy stopped one of us would, after security was established, buy them from local vendors. They were typically very poor quality cigarettes but we bought them anyway.
I know from more than a few friends in Afghanistan (recently or currently) that if there isn’t any way to get them from an on base PX/Shopette it’s done much the same way. Additionally when a soldier rotates back to an area where there is a PX/Shopette he’ll typically bring a list of items his fellow Soldier want him to pick up and do his best to bring it all back.
Money isn’t that hard to come by but few people have it in large amounts. Really wasn’t a need that I could ever see. During my first tour in Iraq I can remember having about $100 in my wallet for about 3 months. Something I would be hard pressed to do in my normal life for more than a week.
I worked a lot with the infantry. When I first started with the infantry, I asked during a patrol one night, “can I smoke?” The answer was yes, but only under a poncho. Most smokers either obtained during night operations or used chewing tobacco.
Finally, while some of us did smoke ‘dipping’ was much more commonplace. I think down range, and I have NOTHING to back this up just my own experience, tobacco use among all populations was higher than it was at home. Just my experience.
It perhaps wasn’t the intention, but it was certainly an effect. I’ve seen the claim made that by sometime in the 60’s the pack-a-day plus habits many GI’s picked up from generous cigarette rations had killed more of them than enemy action had.