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DoD to Phase Out Smoking at Recreation Facilities

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2000 – DoD is expanding its smoking ban to include clubs, bowling alleys and other morale, welfare and recreation facilities.

"We want to provide smoke-free facilities across the Department of Defense," said Sherri Goodman, deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security. "We started with the workplace, and now we've expanded to cover our morale, welfare, and recreational facilities as well," she said during an interview here April 12.

"We want to make sure that people who are using any DoD facilities have an opportunity to do so in a smoke-free environment," Goodman said. She added that smoking is already prohibited in DoD facilities for children.

An estimated 34 percent of the nation's 1.4 million service members smoke, according to DoD officials. The Department banned smoking in all workplaces in 1994; DoD excluded living and recreation areas, however.

By December 2002, all DoD facilities will be smoke-free, Goodman said. Smoking will only be allowed in designated, separately ventilated smoking areas. DoD officials are providing a three-year phase-in period to give the facilities adequate time to make those changes.

"Some in the military departments were ready to do it even sooner," she said. "Many installations are already moving to provide separately ventilated smoking areas."

DoD wants "to do the right thing," Goodman stressed. "We want to make sure we protect our people, maintain readiness and provide a healthy environment.

Smoking and secondhand smoke, she noted, pose serious health risks and present considerable health costs to the military. "We would like people to stop smoking," she said. "We go to great lengths to protect the health and safety of our military, and this is certainly one aspect of it."

"I think now families will feel free to bring their children, for example, into all MWR facilities, whether its a bowling alley or a club, and know that there will be a place that will be smoke-free for their family members, she said. I believe that is very important because our MWR facilities should be available to all military families."

In 1997, President Clinton banned smoking in all interior space owned, rented or leased by the federal executive branch in 1997. Smoking is only allowed in designated areas that have special ventilation and smoke-containment features.

In December, under the provisions of the president's executive order, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen approved "a limited and narrow" exception to allow a three- year phase-in period for certain MWR facilities. A DoD Instruction on the policy exception is due to reach the field this summer.

Since many MWR facilities are not equipped with the special features necessary, he said, an immediate ban "would negatively effect service members' morale at a time when we are asking them to bear historically high operations tempo levels."

Installation commanders are to determine which facilities should receive the benefit of the phase-in period. In the meantime, however, those facilities must maintain separate smoking and non-smoking areas.

"Although non-smoking is our strong policy preference, it is important for our MWR activities to be seen as available and accommodating for all service members, including those who smoke," Cohen stated in a policy letter dated Dec. 7, 1999.

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