Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I'd probably go AWOL! (fer you land-lubbers thats Absent Without Official Leave)

Well Sir, stand by fer some short tempers, irritability, fights, sleepless nights and weight increases.

Unless yur a smoker (or ever were one), and you served on the boats, and stood various watches and duties, you have no idea how stressful some duties and assignments can be, and lighting up a smoke (in my day, in the After-Battery chow hall), the "Smoke-Pit", or on the watch station itself was a great relief.

I can't imagine going 3-6 months on patrol without a smoke, after all, I've been smoke'n since age 12, it was almost part of the culture back then (1956).

Good Luck men (and now women-folk), yur gonna need it!! Hmmmm, now that I think about it though, with women now serving on board the boats, I think I can find a way of directing my nicotine cravings to another direction!

Smoking Ban About to Kick in on Navy Subs
December 29, 2010

The Smoking Lamp is Permanently OUT!

Smoking lamp

The exact date and origin of the smoking lamp has been lost. However, it probably came into use during the 16th Century when seamen began smoking on board vessels. The smoking lamp was a safety measure. It was devised mainly to keep the fire hazard away from highly combustible woodwork and gunpowder. Most navies established regulations restricting smoking to certain areas. Usually, the lamp was located in the forecastle or the area directly surrounding the galley indicting that smoking was permitted in this area. Even after the invention of matches in the 1830s, the lamp was an item of convenience to the smoker. When particularly hazardous operations or work required that smoking be curtailed, the unlighted lamp relayed the message. "The smoking lamp is lighted" or "the smoking lamp is out' were the expressions indicating that smoking was permitted or forbidden.
The smoking lamp has survived only as a figure of speech. When the officer of the deck says "the smoking lamp is out" before drills, refueling or taking ammunition, that is the Navy's way of saying "cease smoking."

Starting Jan. 1, one of the liveliest spots aboard most submarines will wither away into the history books.

RIP, Smoke Pit.

Its death was scripted in April, when Navy officials announced smoking would no longer be allowed on submarines at sea. The reason: Testing showed that despite air filtering, there were "unacceptable levels" of secondhand smoke on submerged submarines.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Mueller Jr. used to head to the smoke pit before and after his shifts as assistant navigator aboard the submarine Albany.

It was always a popular spot. Los Angeles-class attack submarines like the Albany allowed smoking in the engine room at the very back and very bottom of the boat, a spot that typically was the nerve center of the boat. It's where gossip -- "gouge," in Navy lingo -- was traded. Only three men were allowed to light up at a time, so lines formed quickly.

"That's where you really find out what's going on," Mueller said. "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.' "

Creature comforts are few aboard a 360-foot-long metal tube, crammed alongside 140 other men, unable to access sunlight or fresh air. A crew's indulgences typically boil down to three things: food, coffee and cigarettes.

For many members of the Navy's "silent service," the idea of a cruise without cigarettes was akin to a deployment without another staple of submarine life: copious amounts of coffee.

The Norfolk-based Albany was on deployment this spring when the smoking announcement came out. Fireman Randall Fogle, a two pack-a-day smoker, remembers his reaction: "I thought they were damned crazy," he said.

He wasn't alone. About 45 percent of the Albany's crew were tobacco users.

The job of helping crewmembers who wanted to quit fell to Chief Petty Officer Allen Truhn, the Albany's independent duty corpsman, or "doc."

While the sub was deployed, he led smoking cessation classes for interested Sailors and supplied nicotine patches and nicotine gum to those who wanted to quit as soon as possible.

Although many Sailors rely on prescription medication to help them quit -- Zyban and Chantix are two popular options -- they aren't available for submariners, because psychotropic drugs are forbidden for the 11,600 Sailors assigned to subs.

Mueller was one of Truhn's "patients." After 26 years of smoking, he decided it was time. His previous attempts at quitting had lasted a couple weeks or a month at most.

Many of his comrades doubted he could do it.

"Doc and I have had a lot of nice talks," Mueller said in late November, when he had been smoke-free for two months. He chewed nicotine gum for three days, he said, then went cold turkey, assuring himself that physical addictions can be broken in seven days. After that, he insists, it's a mental issue.

Instead of chewing gum, Mueller deals with cravings by drinking more coffee -- he pulls out a Starbucks gift card to indicate his favorite brew. "Twenty-four years on subs, I drink coffee like it's water," he said.

Truhn said some of the Sailors who quit have put on weight, compensating for cigarettes with food.

Fogle acknowledges putting on about 10 pounds since he quit. Now, he said he has no desire to light up. His new habit? He points to his mouth, and the chewing gum he relies on a substitute. His selection this frigid day: Wrigley's 5 Solstice gum. The 15-piece pack was full this morning, Fogle said. Now, late morning, it's more than halfway gone.

Fogle remembers the last time he smoked aboard the Albany. He'd waited in line for 45 minutes. The fact he had to wait so long to do something he knew wasn't good for him finally put him over the edge. He quit cold turkey.

A submarine's close-knit community is an asset when Sailors want to make a change for the better, Fogle said.

"If you do something, somebody knows about it," he said.

Weeks after kicking the habit, he bummed a cigarette off a crewmate. Fogle had it in his hand when the Sailor asked, "Didn't you quit? Give that back to me!"

"It's not really worth it to continue smoking," Fogle said. "When I run now, I feel so much better." Financially, he's better off, too, spending $15 a week on gum, instead of $65 or more on butts.

Not all Sailors have been as successful. "There are a few that have struggled," Truhn said. "You're going to slip up. The idea is that you get back on the horse."

There are lots of upsides, like a lot more storage space aboard. According to Truhn, some smokers used about a third of their allotted locker space to stash smokes that would last them through the deployment.

Was the crew grumpier as it dealt with tobacco withdrawal? Fogle thinks the opposite is true: People seem nicer, he said. They seem less stressed out. "People I know who've quit just seem happier," he said.

Mueller thinks the submarine force was wise to end smoking across the fleet, instead of leaving it up to individual boats. Because it came from the highest levels of the submarine community, crewmembers knew it was useless to blame the captain or try to reverse the ban.

The boat's leadership also made a few key decisions to help the crew quit, including reducing the hours when smokers could indulge. It went from most anytime to a couple of times during the day.

"It was a progressive thing," he said. "First, it was just on either side of the watch stations. That forced you to cut back."

The Albany beat the Navy's deadline. It went smoke-free after returning from deployment in August.

Truhn said about 30 Sailors attended his smoking cessation classes over a five week period while underway. About 15 used nicotine patches and another 20 chewed the gum, part of a 12-week program. Only one of the gum-chewers came back for an additional supply after the 50 pieces were gone, he said.

The chief petty officers on the Albany have embraced the policy change, Truhn said. Of the boat's 17 chiefs, only 2 or 3 still smoke, he said, and they're all in the process of quitting.

Though the ban aboard smoking underway only applies to submarines for now, Albany Sailors have no doubt their brothers and sisters on surface ships will soon be following in their footsteps. Big Navy isn't going to allow smoking on ships forever, they predict.

"It's coming," Fogle said.

NOTE: My Comment Section is down so I'm just gonna post "SubVets" comment here.

"I made my first patrol back in 72', EVERYBODY smoked then. We'd run both CO2 scrubbers for at least 6 hours a day just to keep up. Fast forward to 92' right before I got out, I was on a Med cruise where we spent a couple of months submerged with extra bodies (SEALs) onboard. The demand for the scrubbers was much less, so was the prevelance of smokers (I'd quit back in 86).
So is this a good thing? Gee, do you really want an ex smoker to give an opinion on that? We're worse than recovering alcoholics when it comes to badmouthing what used to be our first love.
Let's just say I'm DAMNED glad to be retired so I don't have to put up with the fallout from this, AND women being stationed aboard the boats, AND openly gay sailors serving, AND any other PC crappola the idiots at the Pentagon dream up while looking for political ass to kiss.
Let 'em just keep sending the retirement checks to my house, they'll help pay for the ammo I'll be using when this nation goes completely bellyup. God help us all."

....and "Big Mo" said:

I've been a smoker and a non-smoker and I can definitively say that you will never sit with a more self-involved, morose and nanny-headed group of people than non-smokers. Spin this story any way you like, going from smoking to not smoking and hanging with those who never smoked is like having someone ask if you have a case of the Mondays at every break. Smokers are funny, animated and realize that life is short and you should enjoy it. Non-smokers? Not so much. Good luck with your stupid, social engineering rules, dunderheads, the Navy you're building is gonna be better at crying than fighting.