PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Olympia (SSN 717), USS Greeneville (SSN 772), USS Pasadena (SSN 752), and USS La Jolla (SSN 701), attached to Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam are getting a head start on the upcoming smoking ban below decks on submarines scheduled to become effective no later than Dec. 31, 2010.
In conjunction with the policy change, smoking cessation assistance training programs are being implemented on all COMSUBPAC submarines. The programs will incorporate education techniques and nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum, to assist in kicking the smoking habit.
These four submarines are getting a head start on this policy by already implementing the training programs well ahead of the effective date for the new policy. Each submarine has two Tobacco Cessation training facilitators who are qualified to help participants stop smoking by providing them with all of the essential information and strategies needed to direct their own efforts at stopping.
USS Olympia facilitators are working closely with their soon to be former smokers to ensure they have both the physical and psychological support they need to make this program successful.
"Our overall team approach was that the permanent ban is the right answer to a healthier and longer life, so why wait six months to start," said Cmdr. Michael Coughlin, Olympia commanding officer. "The first phase of our plan took place during our last underway period where we reduced the allowed amount of smoking which went smoothly. However, the next phase, further nicotine amount reduction, leading to the final cessation step of being smoke-free prior to our departure for deployment this summer, will undoubtedly be the real test."
The crew of USS Greeneville is taking a strong approach to the new policy by participating in the smoking cessation programs while in port.
"Our cessation training program consists of four one-hour group sessions that take place twice a week," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SS) Edward Johnson, Greeneville Tobacco Cessation Coordinator. "Along with this training and the distribution of the patches and gum, I think our submarine will have no problem meeting our goal of being smoke free by May 21, 2010."
With all the risk factors associated with smoking, this policy not only promotes cleaner air on submarines, it protects the non-smoker from nicotine byproducts and promotes a healthier lifestyle which in turn increases overall military readiness.
"We want our submariners to understand that this policy is not intended to punish smokers, it is to protect the non-smokers from the hazards of secondhand smoke," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Dave Mathews, COMSUBPAC tobacco cessation training program coordinator.
USS La Jolla crew member Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (SS) Theodore Bennett is currently enrolled in the smoking cessation assistance training program.
"I have been a smoker for five years and have tried to quit numerous times," said Bennett. "With this program and the support of my shipmates, I now have the confidence that I can kick this habit not only while we are underway, but for good."
Non-smokers are also looking forward to this new policy.
"Being a junior submariner and a nonsmoker, it gives me a great sense of well-being knowing that my future in the submarine force will not be compromised by the dangers of secondhand smoke," said Electronics Technician Seaman Dennis Crist, USS Pasadena crew member.
As COMSUBPAC continues to support global maritime security and take on whatever challenges the mission brings, the smoking ban below decks is destined to ensure a healthier lifestyle for all submariners while they continue their silent service legacy as the world's greatest submarine force.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/subpac/.