GROTON, Conn. (AP) — Navy officials say they’ve begun smoking cessation programs at the Groton submarine base and removed smoking areas from subs based a the site to prepare for a smoking ban taking effect New Year’s Eve.

The Navy issued an order in April to its fleet of 71 submarines to ban onboard smoking by Dec. 31. A 2009 study found that nonsmoking submarine sailors were testing positive for nicotine exposure after returning from patrols, despite smoking being confined to certain areas.

Officials in Groton say smoking areas have already been removed from the Springfield, Virginia and Hartford submarines, while voluntary smoking cessation programs are being offered. The Navy will also offer nicotine patches and gum to sailors who want them.

The ban comes 16 years after the military prohibited smoking in most other indoor areas.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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