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NAPLES, Italy — The Navy is considering a ban on smoking aboard submarines, a move to help clear the recycled air for crews who spend months at a time aboard submerged vessels.

The move isn’t yet official, according to Lt. Cmdr. Mark Jones, a spokesman for Submarine Force, but its aim would be to improve the health of the force.

The 2008 Survey of Health Related Behaviors commissioned by the Department of Defense, released in December, indicated a decrease in the military smoking rate from 34 percent in 2002 to 31 percent in 2008.

The Navy also completed a study last year on the effect of second-hand smoke aboard underway subs, but Jones said the results of the study were not available.

Currently, smoking is allowed in designated spaces that “must be well ventilated and not in the vicinity of stationary watch stations,” according to a 2005 Navy policy.

“Berthing spaces, messes, lounges, and exercise areas shall not be designated as smoking areas,” the policy states. “The number of smokers authorized to use a smoking area at one time shall be limited by the clearance capacity of the ventilation system.”

While some submariners think the ban is a good long-term plan, they feel it could make for some trying deployments.

“That will be a real testy sub when it gets underway,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Auel, currently based in Naples, with Submarine Group 8. “As a non-smoker, I think it’s good, but a ban will just push smokers to use a different form of tobacco.”

As an unintended consequence, the ban also might curtail certain business dealings.

“Smoking leads to some nefarious behavior onboard submarines,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Grady Lott, a former smoker also assigned to Submarine Group 8. “When you can’t get ’em, you’ll do anything. I knew some folks that paid up to $60 for a pack of cigarettes while they were underway.

“A smart nub will bring lots of cigarettes on deployment.”

A former smoker, Lott supports the ban.

“Smoking doesn’t jibe with all of the Navy’s health initiatives,” he said.

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