Some Air Force base housing residents in the Pacific say they wish their commands would offer them the option of smoke-free housing.
Others — smokers and nonsmokers alike — believe the military shouldn’t have any say in whether people can smoke in the privacy of their personal, albeit government-provided, home.
The issue came up at a Yokota Air Base town hall meeting earlier this year after residents there learned that Misawa Air Base would ban smoking in its family housing apartment towers starting May 1. During the meeting, several residents said they have neighbors’ cigarette smoke flowing into their homes and asked if the base could ban smoking in the towers.
Misawa officials said they instituted the ban because they weren’t in compliance with an Air Force instruction that states "the rights of the nonsmokers will prevail." They’ve since added other types of housing units to the ban and set the goal of making the majority of housing smoke-free as units undergo renovations.
The instruction, titled "Tobacco Use in the Air Force," gives commanders the authority to "designate areas or buildings in dormitories or family housing smoke-free when there is a common air-handling unit for multiple individuals or families ... to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all residents."
Officials at Kadena, Yokota, Andersen and Osan air bases have reported that they are in compliance with the regulations. Yokota, Kadena and Andersen officials said their base housing units don’t use shared air-handling systems.
Officials at Osan have said their smoking policy is under review, but declined to provide any additional details.
But whether bases are in compliance or not, some residents say secondhand smoke anywhere is a nuisance and should be further regulated, at least in some portions of the housing.
Airman 1st Class Samuel Salcedo, who lives on Kadena, agrees with Misawa’s move to tighten its smoking policies and said he would like it if Kadena offered some smoke-free housing areas.
"I’m tired of secondhand smoke. Honestly, it makes me mad," he said. "Me not being a smoker, I think it’s a good rule."
Salcedo said smoke drifting into his yard from neighbors smoking outside makes him uncomfortable, and he worries about the effects on his 7-month-old daughter.
"You’re ruining the space for other people," he said.
Senior Airman Katrina Newburn of Kadena was on the fence with the issue, saying she agrees there should be designated smoking areas in shared spaces like dormitories, but "a family living in a house should be able to do what they want."
Debbie Cabilla also said she would prefer nonsmoking housing throughout Osan.
"I don’t think it should be around," she said. "I have children. I don’t want them to be around it. It’s very unhealthy. It smells."
Staff Sgt. Kevin Wiehoff, a smoker who lives in a Yokota garden townhouse unit, doesn’t like the idea of a ban.
"I think it would be terrible," he said, adding that he smokes only on his back porch because he thought it was against the regulations to smoke inside. He added that he has never had any complaints from neighbors.
He said he would oppose a move to ban smoking in housing areas entirely, asking, "Where are you then supposed to smoke?"
Osan housing resident Tess Frazier said the base shouldn’t ban smoking in any base housing.
"It’s nobody’s business what they do in their apartment," she said.
Stars and Stripes reporters Natasha Lee, Bryce S. Dubee and Franklin Fisher contributed to this story.