Health implications of smoking

As an active smoker is considered anyone who consumes tobacco/nicotine based products; namely a heavy smoker smokes more than 25 cigarettes per day. While smoking, each individual becomes addicted to nicotine; the brain develops extra nicotine receptors to accommodate the large doses of nicotine from tobacco. When the brain stops getting the nicotine it’s used to, the result is nicotine withdrawal.  A smoker is more vulnerable to mouth effects and increased percentages of mouth cancer occurrence has been noted among smoking population.

Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by two to four times. Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them get thick and narrow. This makes heart to beat faster, and blood pressure rises. Additionally, smoking causes lung diseases. Tobacco smoke can trigger an asthma attack or make an attack worse. Smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than nonsmokers.

Chemicals included in cigarettes’ smoke may reduce blood circulation and oxygen flow to eyes. This can cause a variety of vision and eye problems. Smoking may also cause dry eye syndrome. That can cause blurry vision, eye stinging, and contact lens discomfort. Overall, smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer, including at least 15 types of cancer. Even passive smokers are being influenced negatively; thus a strict no smoking policy onboard vessels is imperative as well.

Safety (and Health) First!

Specifically, for a healthy lifestyle onboard, many shipping organizations implement a no- smoking policy onboard ships, especially on tankers and on those carrying dangerous flammable cargo. Smoking onboard cargo vessels is only permitted in specific areas, however, crew members smoke in their cabins too. Apart from the implications that smoking has on one’s health, smoking onboard is considered as a risky habit and a possible cause of fire on board.  So far, many incidents have been reported in which a cigarette butt was blamed for sparking a fire and in most cases, the fire broke out from a crew cabin.

Therefore, clearly designating safe smoking locations should be implemented where smoking may be suspended if it interferes with normal safety requirements on board or in port. Also, the deck access code must be followed and suitable receptacles must be provided for extinguishing discarded cigarette butts. It is recommended smoking not to be permitted in any cabin, public and office space or recreation area within the accommodation, nor any working area, bridge, machinery spaces, workshops or control rooms, galley and pantries, store rooms, under deck passageways, cranes, cargo areas, main decks, poop decks, mooring decks or forecastle spaces on board the ship.

Action Taken

In order to protect crew members from the negative consequences of smoking, ship operators are advised to consider the following for both the crew health and safety onboard:

  1. Specify the smoking areas on board and implement disciplinary measures for non-compliance
  2. Have adequate self- closing ashtrays in the areas that smoking is permitted
  3. Post ‘No Smoking signs’ to all areas that smoking is prohibited, including crew cabins
  4. Accommodation inspections (as per MLC) should include the condition of smoke detectors in all accommodation spaces in order to avoid smoking in cabins
  5. Restrict the areas where smoking can take place, so nonsmoking staff are protected from passive smoking, while smokers can gain access to a designated safe smoking locations in their off duty periods.
  6. Provide adequate recreational facilities in order to keep crew occupied during free time and encourage physical exercise and activities on board
  7. Reduce the amount of provided cigarettes on board
  8. Provide information on the health damage caused and awareness on the interactions between smoking and the workplace
  9. Implement anti-smoking campaigns on board and encourage rewards for goal achievement
  10. Safety Campaigns on board to include an analysis of past incidents in which fires started from cigarettes on board and discuss lessons learned and possible consequences.