U.S. Navy subs to ban smoking, may go coed

The U.S. Navy plans to ban smoking on its submarine force by year-end and open the elite submarine fraternity to women next year, officials said.

The smoking ban, which goes into effect Dec. 31, will include programs to help sailors kick the habit, naval officials said. Individual submarine commanders will be allowed to decide if crew members are permitted to smoke on deck, CNN reported.

The military has long expressed concerns about health risks of second-hand smoke on submarines, where smoking is far more prevalent than in the U.S. adult population at large, The Washington Post reported.

An estimated 35 to 40 percent of sailors smoke — and they “can’t exactly step outside whenever they want a puff,” the Post observed.

There are 71 submarines in the Navy and about 13,000 sailors on submarine active duty, the Navy said.

The decision to make submarines coed goes into effect by the end of 2011, barring congressional intervention in the next few days, the Post said.

The Defense Department, which notified Congress in February of its intentions to add women to submarine crews, has considered adding them since 1993 when female sailors began serving on surface warships.

Women will be integrated into the submarine force in phases, with female officers joining first and in groups, largely to prevent the likelihood of sexual harassment, the Navy said.

The first group will be women who graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy next month and sign up to attend the Navy’s submarine school in Groton, Conn.

The Pentagon also said in February it was working to let homosexual men and women openly serve in the military, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s call to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that requires gay, lesbian and bisexual service members or applicants to keep their sexual orientations a secret.

source: upi.com

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