Smoking Seen As Sub-Par

From Commander, Submarine Forces Public Affairs --NORFOLK(NNS) --

Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR) has effected a policy April 8 banning smoking below decks aboard all U.S. Navy submarines.

The smoking ban, announced via naval message, will become effective no later than Dec. 31, 2010.

The impetus behind the change of policy is the health risks to non-smokers, specifically exposure to secondhand smoke.

"Our Sailors are our most important asset to accomplishing our missions. Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of second hand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine. The only way to eliminate risk to our non-smoking Sailors is to stop smoking aboard oursubmarines," said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, COMSUBFOR.

According to a 2006 Surgeon General's report on involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke, there is no risk-free level of exposure to second hand smoke. Non-smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke increase their risk of developing heart and lung disease.

Subsequent to the 2006 Surgeon General report, the Submarine Force chartered the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory to conduct a study on U.S. submarines. The study indicated that non-smoking Sailors were exposed to measurable levels of Environment Tobacco Smoke (ETS), also called second hand smoke. The year-long study was conducted in 2009 on nine different submarines, including at least one from each class of submarines in the force.

In conjunction with the policy change, cessation assistance to Sailors is being offered. The program will incorporate education techniques and nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum, to assist in kicking the smoking habit. In keeping with currentsubmarine policy, drugs such as Zyban and Chantix are not authorized.

"To help smokers minimize the effects of quitting, nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and gum, will be readily available along with an extensive cessation training and support program on every boat. What we want to discourage is smokers turning to alternative methods of tobacco use such a chewing tobacco," said Capt. Mark Michaud, Submarine Force Atlantic surgeon.

"While submarine duty is a dynamic and demanding job, the Submarine Force is dedicated to mitigating unnecessary risks to our Sailors. Exposure to a harmful substance that is avoidable, such as second hand smoke, is unfair to those who choose not to smoke," said Donnelly.