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Smoking Lamps: The Story of Saving Navy Lives at Sea

Smoking lamps are an important safety feature on ships in the United States Navy. They were used to designate areas where sailors were allowed to smoke, helping to prevent the risk of fires on board ship.

The Age of Sail

The use of smoking lamps dates back to the early days of sail, when ships were made of wood and were prone to catching fire. Smoking was a common pastime for sailors, but the danger of smoking on board ship was very real. In order to prevent fires, the captain of each ship would designate certain areas where sailors were allowed to smoke. These areas were marked with a smoking lamp, which was a small lamp that was kept burning at all times.

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The use of smoking lamps continued as ships became more advanced and made of iron and steel. Although the risk of fire was lessened, smoking lamps were still used to designate areas where sailors were allowed to smoke. These areas were typically located on the upper decks of the ship, where there was less risk of fire.

Nautical vs Modern Smoking Lamps
Nautical vs Modern Smoking Lamps

Today's Navy

In the early 20th century, the United States Navy began to implement stricter regulations regarding the use of smoking lamps. Smoking was only allowed in designated areas, and sailors were required to extinguish their cigarettes when not in these areas. This helped to further reduce the risk of fire on board ship.

Today, smoking lamps are no longer in use in the United States Navy. However, the use of tobacco products is still allowed on naval vessels, although sailors are required to follow strict rules regarding their use. This is in line with the Navy’s commitment to the health and safety of its sailors.

Passing the Word

For the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch, when smoking is permitted the word is passed:

  • “The Smoking Lamp is Lighted (eg. aft weatherdecks)”

when smoking is secured, the word is passed:

  • “The Smoking Lamp is Secured”

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