Friday, April 9, 2010

Safer Air Below Decks

Yesterday, the U.S. Navy announced a change in policy – smoking will be banned aboard all submarines. Obviously, prohibiting smoking in such confined spaces makes sense. The question for me was “Why did it take so long?” One can reason that both smoking and non-smoking sailors would be exposed to unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke. Although prior Surgeons General and tobacco control advocates have presented evidence of the health consequences of second-hand smoke, it wasn’t until a 2009 study by the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory confirmed risk to nonsmoking submariners that a policy change was successful.

Accompanying the smoking ban will be tobacco cessation education and access to nicotine replacement therapy products. Kudos to the Navy for recognizing that forcing submarine sailors to go “cold turkey” would not be a smart move. Hopefully, the cessation programs will be expanded to adhere to the Public Health Service Guidelines’ comprehensive mix of counseling and medications.

Diane M. Canova
Vice President, Policy & Programs


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