Navy Acts to Protect Sailors’ Health by Banning Smoking on Submarines, Providing Cessation Assistance

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Apr. 9 2010

Washington, D.C. — We applaud the U.S. Navy for acting to protect sailors’ health by adopting a new policy that bans smoking below decks aboard all Navy submarines. This policy recognizes that secondhand smoke is a serious, scientifically proven threat to human health, and no one should be exposed to it in the workplace, including the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. This policy will improve the health of all sailors aboard submarines and sends a powerful message that all workplaces should be smoke-free.

The Navy has also taken another important and necessary step to protect sailors’ health by providing smoking cessation medication and support programs to sailors on every boat. Nicotine is highly addictive, and smokers often make several attempts before they succeed in quitting. By making smoking cessation medication and support programs widely available, the Navy will help more smoking personnel to quit and reap both immediate and long-term benefits to their health.

Background on Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws

The need for protection from secondhand smoke in all workplaces and public places has never been clearer. In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults."

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection from secondhand smoke. A report released last year by the Institute of Medicine concluded that secondhand smoke causes heart attacks while smoke-free laws prevent them.

In the U.S., 28 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and hundreds of cities and counties have passed smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas (effective July 1, 2010), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (May 1, 2010), Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin (July 5, 2010).

 

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