American Lung Association Testifies for Lung Health in the Military

WASHINGTON, DC (June 28, 2010)

The American Lung Association warned that smoking among soldiers has disastrous effects on the nation's military.

Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on June 23, Lung Association Board Chair H. James Gooden told lawmakers that "the alarming use of tobacco in the military has severe consequences. It impacts troop readiness, impairs physical capacity, vision and hearing, and increases the chance of physical injury and hospitalization."

Currently, 30.5 percent of active duty military smoke; although the highest smoking rates are among personnel ages 18-25 – especially among soldiers and Marines. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 50 percent of all active duty personnel stationed in Iraq smoke.

In addition to the Lung Association's concern over tobacco use in the military, Gooden also spoke about the health threat posed by burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The threat has become more prominent as soldiers who were exposed to the burn pits are now returning home with lung illnesses including asthma, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnea.

"The American Lung Association is deeply concerned by reports of the use of burn pits and the negative effects on lung health on soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan," Gooden testified. "Emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Emissions also contain chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens." Gooden continued. "We urge the DoD to immediately find alternatives to this method of waste disposal."

Gooden also testified in support of the Lung Cancer Research Program, a part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, and its original intent to research the scope of lung cancer in our military.

"We were deeply disappointed by changes made by Congress last year," Gooden said. "This critical public health research program was cut by 25 percent – $5 million – which may diminish the effectiveness of this crucial research. We urge this committee to return the funding level to $20 million."

H. James Gooden is the 2010-2011 chair of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association. In this capacity, Gooden leads the organization's work to save lives by improving health and preventing disease.