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Dover Air Force Base writes new policy on tobacco use

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (April 02, 1999) -- Some major changes are on the way for users of tobacco at Dover Air Force Base.

A new policy from the wing commander was recently briefed to squadron commanders. The new policy more clearly defines what behaviors will be tolerated by users of tobacco, in addition to where and when tobacco use is permitted.

While the Air Force already has an official policy on tobacco use, Air Force Instruction 40-102, the Eagle Wing has made a decision to localize that policy with it's own instruction. The supplement leaves less room for misinterpretation of the Air Force policy.

"This policy clarifies the expectations of Dover a little more," said Maj. Diana Curtis, Health Promotions Manager at the Health and Wellness Center. "The Air Force policy has been left open in certain areas, to allow installation commanders to emphasize their own ideas on the policy."

According to Curtis, the most obvious change in the policy states "The Air Force will no longer designate non-tobacco use areas. All areas will be considered tobacco free..."

What this means is that members will not be allowed to use tobacco products anywhere on base except in areas specifically designated as tobacco use areas.

"The AFI states installation commanders or squadron commanders designate a tobacco use area," said Curtis, "those areas designated for tobacco use will be clearly marked."

The wing policy makes it clear that outdoor tobacco use will be limited to designated tobacco use areas only. "Even when you are out of uniform, on the weekends, or are just hanging around the dorms, you need to be in the designated tobacco use areas," said Curtis.

For clarification, the policy also states members in uniform will not use tobacco products while walking, or while riding a bicycle.

The rules for tobacco use indoors have also been clarified.

"There are only three areas on base that allow indoor tobacco use," said Curtis. "Those areas are the Bowling Center, the Global Activities and Community Center, and the Landings. And there are specific areas within those locations that have been set aside for tobacco use."

According to Curtis, smoking in base housing is still permitted, but the idea of completely eliminating smoking in those has been discussed.

Curtis also added that since "tobacco" includes chewing tobacco as well as cigarettes, the rules will apply equally to both.

"This means users of smokeless tobacco are not permitted to use it indoors, they must use it outdoors, in the designated areas," said Curtis.

While the new policy may seem to some to be too strict, it is not the strictest in the Air Force. According to Curtis, some commands, such as Air Education and Training Command, enforce a 100 percent non-tobacco use policy for students during duty hours. "We are not breaking new ground with this supplement," said Curtis, "others have done it already."

"The Air Force wants its members to quit the tobacco habit mainly because of the detrimental health affects, some short term, and quite a bit of which are long term. Heart disease and cancer rates are higher in smokers," said Curtis.

Dr. Thomas D. Fadell Luna, 436th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander, says tobacco users, specifically smokers, effect mission readiness.

"We know in the medical group that smokers spend a lot more time in sick call than do non-smokers," said Luna. "We know fliers who smoke spend a lot more time on non-flying status due to illness than do non-smoking fliers."

"The Air Force has about 29.3 percent tobacco users among active duty members. We would like to take two to four percent off of that," said Curtis. "The ultimate long rang goal, however, is a tobacco-free Air Force."