Local News

Many civic clubs stub out cigarette smoke

SEBRING - When Doug Deierlein suggested that the American Legion Post 69 in Avon Park become non-smoking inside, even his own commander at that time was a little upset with the idea at first. That was about two years ago. A few smokers grumbled, some even left - but then another thing happened. People who didnít want to sit in a smoky building took notice and joined, and the postís membership has almost doubled during that time, said Deierlein, who is now the post commander.
Post 69 is one of many civic clubs in Highlands County to go smoke-free in the last couple of years. Ironically, that is boosting the numbers of many of these groups, especially veterans organizations whose membership has dwindled in the last few years as World War II veterans pass away. March 1, the Avon Park Moose Lodge, which is not a veterans group, decided to ban inside smoking. They have gained 21 new members since then, Deierlein said. Over at AMVETS Post 21, members voted last year to go smoke-free. Their membership has also gone up by 30 percent, said the groupís head trustee Art Barnhart. The decision came about because the group had moved to a new location, he said. Practical reasons may have led, in part, to that vote but having smokers go outside has also kept the building cleaner, Barnhart said, and prevented the smell of smoke from clinging to everything inside. Plus there is the big health issue: Several of their members are elderly and their lungs canít take the second-hand smoke, he said. Over at Post 69, smokers may have to go outside but the post has made sure they donít have to stand around in the parking lot, taking a drag. There is a whole area in the back for them to sit and enjoy their smoke. ďYou got to look out for those people, too,Ē said Jerry Telling, the first vice-commander. ďWe donít condemn them. I used to smoke, too.Ē Tuesday afternoon, around 100 members packed the post, playing bingo. Some of these, like Mary Striecker, smoke but said they didnít mind stepping outside. While Striecker said she didnít mind lighting up outside, many members of the Lake Placid Moose Lodge four years ago decided to keep their bar area open to smokers. The lodge is one of the few private clubs that still allows smoking, although itís restricted in the bar area and the smoke is kept under control, said bar manager Klinker Klingaman. He said members like it this way although things might change if the national moose chapter ever decided not to permit smoking inside any of its lodges. What this also means is that those who miss their cigarettes with their drinks have a place to go to, and some smokers from other clubs have been coming to the Lake Placid Moose Lodge. ďWe welcome them with open arms,Ē Klingaman said with a laugh. pagarwal@highlandstoday.com

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