By Chanel S. Weaver, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandApril 25, 2014
A new U.S. Army Public Health Command "Policy for Tobacco-Free Living" was approved Jan. 10, supporting the momentum to transform the Army culture from tobacco-permissive to tobacco-free.
The policy directs USAPHC personnel and visitors to avoid using tobacco products while on USAPHC campuses, with the intent of creating a healthier workplace and workforce.
Although the policy was signed in January, it may take up to one year before it receives full implementation throughout the USAPHC.
"Implementation of this policy over time will give individual workers time to reduce their nicotine dependence, access tobacco cessation classes and services, and become acclimated to living a tobacco-free lifestyle during the duty day," said Col. Heidi Warrington, chief nurse executive at the USAPHC and lead consultant on tobacco-free living in the U.S. Army Medical Command.
In addition to prohibiting the use of tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco, the policy also prohibits the use of electronic nicotine delivery devices like e-cigarettes, e-pipes and e-cigars while on USAPHC campuses.
Although electronic nicotine delivery devices may seem to be a safe alternative to cigarettes, these devices are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for various reasons, to include the fact that they contain significant variances in the amount of nicotine that is delivered, according to Warrington.
The tobacco-free living policy will benefit the USAPHC workforce by reducing risks of developing debilitating health conditions caused by tobacco use.
Most people know that using tobacco products can eventually cause lung cancer, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. However, one does not have to wait 20 or 30 years to experience the adverse effects of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
Multiple studies by USAPHC scientists show that smoking has immediate health effects--such as increased injury risk and diminished physical performance.
"Tobacco use can negatively impact one's health by causing impaired night vision, respiratory illnesses, delayed wound healing, increased surgical complications and accelerated age-related hearing loss," said Lt. Col. Kari Bruley, an Army public health nurse at the USAPHC. "Long-term effects include cancer, stroke and heart disease."
Additionally, the tobacco-free living policy aims to improve the overall health of employees, military personnel, family members, retirees and visitors at all USAPHC facilities.
Warrington said the policy significantly reduces secondhand smoke exposure that can cause cardiovascular disease and lung cancer among non-smokers.
"Hundreds of toxic chemicals and nearly 70 carcinogens are released through secondhand smoke," she pointed out.
Maj. Gen. Dean G. Sienko, the USAPHC commander, said the policy is vital for sustaining the health and readiness of the USAPHC workforce.
"Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States," Sienko said. "I am delighted that the USAPHC can lead the way in supporting national and Army Medicine strategic objectives to achieve a tobacco-free lifestyle."
The policy also supports the National Prevention Strategy, Healthy People 2020, Army Regulation 600-63 and AMEDD 2020.