Today’s classic archive article, http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_097.html , ended with the note that as many as an “order of magnitude” (10 times) more World War II veterans have died as a result of smoking-related illnesses than died in battle.
While this is probably true, the letter Cecil was answering seemed to be asking a narrower, and even harder-to-answer, question. Namely: Because of the practice of distributing cigarettes to American G.I.s, how many WW2 veterans died from smoking that WOULD NOT HAVE DIED had cigarettes not been so distributed?
This tougher question would require knowing how many G.I.s started to smoke while in service, as well as how many G.I.s who were already smokers would have quit smoking if not for those freely available cigarettes.
I’m not flying fast, just orbiting low.