Navy Officially Bans Smoking on Submarines

Ban would force thousands of sailors to quit smoking ahead of monthslong tours.

ByABC News
April 7, 2010, 2:54 PM

April 8, 2010— -- Life aboard a submarine may soon get a little harder to take for thousands of sailors.

The Navy announced today a ban on smoking aboard submarines while they are deployed below the surface after medical testing showed non-smokers suffered effects of second-hand smoke. It will take effect by Dec. 31, 2010.

The new policy could chip away at the image of the hardened sailor who lights up after a hard day at sea, a portrayal made uber-cool by World War II-era movies.

As with other branches of the military, smoking has long been a staple of Navy culture. For decades, cigarettes were even included in the emergency rations stored in lifeboats alongside food and water.

Lt. Cmdr. Mark Jones of the Commander Naval Submarine Forces out of Norfolk, Va., said about 40 percent of the submarine sailors are smokers.

Cigarettes, he confirmed, are no longer provided as part of sailors' survival gear.

"In a stress-filled environment that a submarine is, that's going to be a big change for smokers," said retired Master Chief John Carcioppolo, now the commander of the U.S. Submarine Veterans at the Groton, Conn., base.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Auel was more blunt, telling Stars and Stripes, "That will be a real testy sub when it gets underway."

Carcioppolo spent 22 years on a submarine as a non-smoker. While he was always able to avoid cigarette smoke below decks, he applauded the Navy.

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "It's a closed environment."

Smoking would still be allowed above decks when the sub is on the surface, he said, but they typically pack out for 60 days at a time, sometimes longer, leaving smokers without an opportunity to light up for months at a stretch.

"Really the only reason they do need to come up is to replenish food stocks," Jones said.