Smoking Ban Arrives Jan. 1 for Navy’s Submarine Sailors

The USS Michigan got a jump on a dozen other Kitsap-based submarines, and its sailors are breathing easier because of it.Smoking Ban for Navy's Submarine Sailorsy

The Blue Crew of SSGN-727 went smokeless at 7:27 a.m. on July 27, matching the boat’s hull number. By midnight on Dec. 31, the rest of the Navy’s subs must follow suit.

On April 8, the Navy said it would ban smoking cigarettes below decks on submarines to protect sailors from secondhand smoke. The move was in response to a 2009 study by the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory that showed the ill effects on nonsmokers.

The Michigan was the first boat from Naval Base Kitsap, and possibly in the Navy, to kick the habit, said Submarine Group 9 spokesman Lt. Ed Early. It wasn’t alone, however.

As of Oct. 22, 21 of the Navy’s 71 submarines had gone completely smoke-free, Early said. Efforts to get an updated number from Submarine Force in Norfolk, Va., last week proved unsuccessful.

There are about 3,500 submariners based at Naval Base Kitsap. If 31 percent of sailors smoke, as a 2008 Department of Defense survey contends, then nearly 1,100 local submariners will have to either quit or subdue the urge to smoke while they’re on patrol.

Submariners can still use smokeless tobacco, though the Navy highly discourages it. Ten percent of them do, according to the survey. They can take cigarettes onto the boat and smoke them pier side or while on liberty. If they get caught sneaking a puff on board, the commanding officer will determine the proper response.

“The goal is to educate smokers about the effect on smokers, and if they want to quit, to help them quit,” Early said.

Sailors have had seven months to quit, and a lot of help. The Navy provided smoking-cessation classes, counseling, and nicotine patches and gum at Naval Hospital Bremerton, its Bangor health clinic and a substance-abuse rehabilitation center at Bangor, said hospital spokesman Doug Stutz.

“They have qualified counselors who have been accredited and have a thorough knowledge of how to deal with anybody who wants to undertake the process of weaning away from the nicotine habit,” Stutz said.

That includes spouses and girlfriends, Stutz said.

The hospital is working with Submarine Group 9 leadership and submarine commanding officers so the crews have ample resources to kick the habit, Stutz said. Each crew has an independent duty corpsman who oversees the program on the sub and is responsible for the gum and patches.

A week from the deadline, all submarines should be close to smokeless, though there might be some stragglers, Early said.

“We’ve put the word out to all of our boats. We expect when Jan. 1 rolls around, the submarine force will be absolutely smoke-free,” he said.

Anybody with access to the naval hospital can get help to quit smoking, not just submariners, Stutz said. Call (800) 422-1383.

One response to “Smoking Ban Arrives Jan. 1 for Navy’s Submarine Sailors

  1. harleyrider1978

    They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
    World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

    What do the studies on passive smoking tell us?

    PHILIPPE EVEN. There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

    It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France …

    I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

    Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

    They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor … but not greater than pollen!

    The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

    Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor’s note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It’s everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

    Why would anti-tobacco organizations wave a threat that does not exist?

    The anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette prices having failed, they had to find a new way to lower the number of smokers. By waving the threat of passive smoking, they found a tool that really works: social pressure. In good faith, non-smokers felt in danger and started to stand up against smokers. As a result, passive smoking has become a public health problem, paving the way for the Evin Law and the decree banning smoking in public places. The cause may be good, but I do not think it is good to legislate on a lie. And the worst part is that it does not work: since the entry into force of the decree, cigarette sales are rising again.

    Why not speak up earlier?

    As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

    Le Parisien

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