A US Navy ban on smoking aboard submarines may offer lessons for enacting similar prohibitions in other parts of the military as well as in civilian life, a new paper suggests.
On the last day of 2010, after decades of hurdles, Navy officials ordered all its underwater ships to become smoke free, and it’s been smooth sailing for the submarine smoking ban since then.
“This was a long time in coming,” one of the researchers, Dr. Larry Williams, told Reuters Health. “This is one great victory, and we may use it to build on.”
The submarine smoking ban laid the foundation for a current Department of Defense review of military smoking, Williams said. The ongoing review could lead to other smoke-free military installations and to the end of military tobacco sales.
The submarine community had assumed that high-tech equipment known as “scrubbers” removed secondhand smoke when ships were under water. But research showed that nonsmokers’ urine levels of cotinine more than doubled when they were living on submarines, the authors write in Tobacco Control. Cotinine is a biomarker for tobacco exposure.
The Navy spent more than a year preparing for the submarine smoking ban and pitched it as essential to the health of involuntarily exposed nonsmokers. Commanders made the case that the likelihood of dying from secondhand smoke was comparable to dying in a motor vehicle accident and greater than dying from a combination of fire, falling and drowning, the report says.