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No butts about it: Navy subs to ban smoking
“You’re going to have some very, very disgruntled sailors”
Aboard the submarine USS Florida, there's no e-mail or phone, no breaks for sunshine or fresh air. For many Navy sailors serving 90-day tours in cramped quarters underwater, one of the few creature comforts has been smoke breaks below decks in the machine room.
By New Year's Eve, sailors will have to kick the habit.
In early April, the Navy ordered its fleet of 71 submarines to snuff out smoking onboard by the end of 2010 — closing one of the last loopholes in an indoor smoking ban the
The change means an estimated 5,200 smokers in the submarine fleet will have to pretty much quit a habit that for some is a pack a day, while for others is an occasional cigar. Those who need to stop expect a rough maiden voyage.
"You're going to have some very, very disgruntled sailors," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Cedric Dickinson, a cook aboard the
The pending smoking ban was announced 16 years after the military
For years the Navy assumed that, aside from smoke wafting around a sub's designated smoke pit, secondhand smoke was scrubbed from the air by the same filters that remove fumes from cooking and cleaning chemicals.
However, a 2009 Navy study showed otherwise. The Navy tested 197 nonsmoking submarine sailors for nicotine in their systems, once while they were on shore duty and again after they returned from deployment at sea. Most had none while assigned to shore, but all tested positive for nicotine exposure after returning from patrols.
The Navy concluded all submarine sailors must be inhaling secondhand smoke, whether they could smell it or not.
"The only way to eliminate it is to eliminate smoking within the submarine," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark C. Jones, a spokesman for Navy Submarine Forces in
Former smokers serving aboard each submarine are being trained as mentors to lead fellow sailors who still light up through cessation classes. Medical officers are preparing to order nicotine gum and patches in bulk to stock each boat. (Sailors aren't allowed to use drugs like Zyban and Chantix, which can have psychological side effects.)
"A lot of them have a pretty good positive attitude," said Master Chief Corpsman Michael Leggett, who overseas the medical officers aboard each sub at
One thing smokers requested almost unanimously, Leggett said, is to be forced to cut back at sea before having to go cold-turkey next year.
So some sub commanders plan to give the nonsmoking policy a trial run before the Navy's Dec. 31 deadline. Huckaba said sailors on the