NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Beginning Jan. 1, smoking will no longer be allowed on U.S. Navy submarines at sea, a move many submariners say will hit them hard.
Navy officials said the ban is because testing showed that despite air filtering there were "unacceptable levels" of secondhand smoke on submerged submarines, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported.
Most submarines have had a "smoke pit," where submariners not on shift could relax and light up.
Such places were always popular spots where crew members could relax and gossip, one sailor says.
"That's where you really find out what's going on," Chief Petty Officer Robert Mueller Jr. says. "The most common denominator is it's like the only escape that you have, the only place you can go that's not work-related. It's like, 'I'm going to take five and I'm going to go smoke.'"
Many members of the Navy's "silent service" say the idea of a cruise without cigarettes will be like a deployment without another staple of submarine life: copious amounts of coffee.
Fireman Randall Fogle, a two-pack-a-day smoker serving on the Norfolk-based submarine Albany, remembers his reaction on hearing of the ban.
"I thought they were damned crazy," he said.
Fogle has since managed to quit, substituting a daily 15-pack of chewing gum for his cigarette habit.
"It's not really worth it to continue smoking," said Fogle, adding he spends $15 a week on gum rather than his former $65 a week on cigarettes.