Calling for a Tobacco Free Military

Lung Association president tells Senate Subcommittee "tobacco is an enemy of combat readiness" and discusses other health threats to troops

(June 8, 2012)

Calling for a Tobacco Free Military - Charles D. Connor, President and CEO
Charles D. Connor
President and CEO,
American Lung Association

On June 6, 2012, American Lung Association President and CEO, Charles D. Connor spoke before the U.S. Senate subcommittee responsible for funding the military, and delivered an important message: protecting our troops’ lung health should be a top priority. Connor speaks from experience. As a retired Navy Captain he has seen first-hand the health risks posed to our service people by things like tobacco use and exposure to toxic pollutants in the field of battle.

Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, chaired by World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Vice Chairman Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Connor detailed the serious health issues for the brave men and women serving our country in the armed services.

During his testimony, Connor detailed the terrible burden on the military caused by tobacco use, and the need for the Department to aggressively combat it. He also discussed two other American Lung Association priorities: the Peer-Reviewed Lung Cancer Research Program and the health threat posed by soldiers’ current and past exposure to toxic pollutants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“All of us here recognize the importance of keeping our soldiers’ lungs healthy,” Connor stated. “Tobacco’s adverse impact on health is well known and extensively documented. Accordingly, tobacco is an insidious enemy of combat readiness.”

He continued, by highlighting the rising healthcare costs for our troops, their families and for both the Department of Defense) and for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs

“Over a billion dollars of this health care bill is being driven by tobacco use. We owe it to our soldiers, their families and taxpayers to prioritize the lung health of our troops,” he explained.

Tobacco use is a significant public health problem for the Department of Defense. And it’s not a problem the DoD has simply inherited. It gets worse within the Department. More than one in seven active duty personnel begin smoking after joining the service.1

The military is, however, beginning to target this problem. In his remarks, Connor recognized the Navy’s recent efforts to reduce tobacco use in their branch, and the Air Force’s new “Instruction on Tobacco Use,” a rule which sets a goal for “a tobacco-free Air Force.” It lays out strong policies on tobacco-free facilities and workplaces, tobacco use in formal training programs, and tobacco cessation programs as well as establishing responsibilities within Air Force command to accomplish these goals.

“Both of these efforts – in the Navy and Air Force - are unprecedented investments in the comprehensive health of sailors, marines, airmen and their families. The American Lung Association hopes these initiatives expand quickly to cover all military personnel.” Connor said.

The American Lung Association also urges the Department of Defense) and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to fully implement all the recommendations included in the Institute of Medicine’s report “Combating Tobacco Use in Military and Veterans Populations” and urges Congress to remove any legislative barriers stand in the way of implementing these recommendations.

The American Lung Association believes our nation’s military is the best in the world and we should do whatever is necessary to ensure that the lung health needs of our armed services are fully met. Troops must be protected from tobacco and other forms of unsafe air pollution and their severe health consequences.

You Can Help

If you know a service member or anyone else who is trying to quit tobacco, send them to www.ffsonline.org

  1. Department of Defense, 2008 DoD Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel. (Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, [2009]), http://www.tricare.mil/2008HealthBehaviors.pdf