The long history of the military and cigarettes

Navy Bans Tobacco Use on Its Submarine Fleet


The Navy is cognizant that military service is stressful, especially in long and lonely deployments under the sea. Everybody is aware that smoking is a legal, if harmful, stress reliever.

So the Navy banned smoking aboard submarines not with the stated purpose of curing the smokers, but of protecting nonsmoking submarine crew members from the threat of heart and lung disease from secondhand smoke.

“Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine,” said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of submarine forces. “The only way to eliminate risk to our nonsmoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines.”

The Navy did not order its submariners to quit cold turkey. For the 5,000 sailors who admitted to being smokers among the submarine fleet’s 13,000 crew members — that is just shy of 40 percent — the ban goes into effect at the end of the year.

In the meantime, a senior petty officer aboard each hunter-killer submarine and each nuclear ballistic missile boat will serve as a “smoking cessation coordinator,” helping sailors wean themselves off the habit through discipline — and a ready supply of nicotine gum, nicotine patches and other replacement therapies.

There are no plans to impose a “smokeless Navy.” Aboard surface warships, smoking is allowed in specially designated — and open — areas. Across the Navy, those who wish to quit smoking can attend classroom programs. And in many Navy and Marine Corps locations, those wishing to quit can receive help from physicians, dentists and pharmacists during a health care visit.

About one-third of all military personnel say they are smokers. While smoking is banned in basic training, more than a third of the current smokers across the armed services say they started after they went on active duty.

The military and cigarettes have a long history, in both combat practice and combat lore. When America went to war in the past, tobacco went with them and cigarettes were part of military rations. But they are no longer contained in the Meals Ready to Eat field food packages, as the Defense Department does not want to officially encourage smoking.

Comment: Cigarettes used to be part of the military ration

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