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Legion goes non-smoking


Membership divided over issue



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American Legion Post 201 recently banned smoking inside, hoping the move will help the members' health and attract younger families to join. (click for larger version)
March 05, 2014
ALPHARETTA, Ga. Hundreds of Home Depot volunteers converged on American Legion Post 201 in Alpharetta in November to upgrade many of its aging facilities new flooring, lighting and landscaping were just some of the upgrades.

In the three months since new HVAC and lighting were installed, Legion Commander Martin Farrell said the electric bill has dropped nearly in half.

"Our gas bill is down as well," Farrell said. "They did an amazing job."

A side effect of the renovations cropped up shortly after they finished.

For Post 201's entire 40-year history, smoking has been allowed, both in the dance hall and the bar. When the dance hall went smoke-free fairly recently, the bar held out. With new ceilings and walls, the leadership chose to make a move to stop all smoking in the post.

"We were at a critical juncture," Farrell said. "With all the new mechanicals, infrastructure and ceiling tiles, we were going to address the smoking issue. We thought this was the moment."

The change was not universally popular; however it was approved in a 2-1 vote of the membership.

"Some [members] understood it was the right thing to do," Farrell said. "Others were not happy about not being allowed to smoke."

The vote was in December, but the ban did not take effect until this year, when a new covered deck was completed.

Farrell said he was trying to make the post more family-friendly. Smoking was stopping many family members from taking part in Legion events.

Younger generations of soldiers and their families are less likely to smoke, Farrell said. To have a Legion post that not only allows smoking but is literally coated in 40 years' worth of smoke makes it difficult to welcome them into the group.

"It was the right thing to do at this time," said Fred Swyters.

Swyters himself was a smoker. He chose that moment to quit. And he is not alone.

Many of the smokers have taken the chance to change their lifestyles, either quitting smoking altogether or moving on to electronic cigarettes.

Dennis Turner smoked a pack a day for more than 50 years. He said he is not happy with the ban but accepts it nonetheless.

"You have to live with what the membership votes for," Turner said. "I'll have to adjust, but I don't have much choice."

He is now trying to quit smoking.

Turner said he has dramatically cut down on the number of cigarettes he smokes, often not having more than one a day. He cracked during the wintery weather, though, having one after spending 10 hours in the car.

"I'm giving up. I'm doing my best," he said. "It's hard to do."

Despite some discontent, there has already been an upturn of new members.

"These are young members who quit because they or their wife didn't like smoking," said Swyters.

Kim Oliver, president of the Ladies' Auxiliary for Post 201 said the move is a great one.

The Auxiliary has met in the bar every third Tuesday of the month for years. The smoky atmosphere has harmed participation.

"People stopped coming because of the smoke," Oliver said. "There were so many smokers in here we couldn't handle it."

Burning eyes and the smell of smoke in hair and clothing were often complaints from the ladies.

Oliver said she expects to see the membership in the Auxiliary grow with the new move.

"Everyone is happier," she said. "We've had one meeting since the change and there was a noticeable improvement. We could breathe."

American Legion Post 201 is located at 201 Wills Road in Alpharetta. It is part of the nation's largest veterans organization with more than 2.4 million members across America. For more information, visit www.legion201.org.

RN 03-06-14

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  1. report print email
    No Smoking
    March 06, 2014 | 12:49 PM

    Welcomed news. Smoking on premises was a reason for me and my wife not to attend functions. Although I am a member, I did not participate, other than paying dues, for that reason. As noted by a number of people, the smell of smoke in your hair and clothes, and the issues with second-hand smoke outweighed the camaraderie afforded me as a member.

    Raymond Challis
    Woodstock
  2. report print email
    no smoking
    March 06, 2014 | 01:12 PM

    Good. It would still be nice to allow an area outside for smokers. I like to have a nice cigar occasionally.

    Phil Cote
    Roswell
  3. report print email
    No Smoking
    March 06, 2014 | 02:00 PM

    This is welcomed news. It's been many years since I was last at the post all because of the smoking /smoke smell.

    Frank Ciszek
    Cumming
  4. report print email
    Smoke Free
    March 06, 2014 | 02:10 PM

    Congrats Cdr! The entire post will prosper from this decision. I look forward to my next visit

    Michael Mizell. LTCMIKE
    Johns Creek
  5. report print email
    Smoking Ban
    March 06, 2014 | 02:59 PM

    I agree with the decision to ban smoking inside the Post. It is the right time to do that. Also, in support of those who do smoke, it is a good idea to provide an outside area for smokers.

    Rich Fiorenza
    Roswell
  6. report print email
    Smoking
    March 06, 2014 | 03:36 PM

    Congratulations. Smoking was the primary reason my wife and I did not participate in post events. We will try and come more often as we do travel a lot. Best wishes, Don

    Don Swenson
    Alpharetta, GA
  7. report print email
    Smoking Ban
    March 06, 2014 | 04:01 PM

    Most people today do not like to breathe second hand smoke. This is the right decision for Post 201 at this time. I believe more people will turn out for events now that the smell of smoking is gone.

    Tim A. Blanchard
    Woodstock
  8. report print email
    There is a heated Deck/Patio w/ TV for Smoking
    March 06, 2014 | 04:05 PM

    To light up go outside. The arrangement is similar to the "Miller Ale House" smoking area.

    Regards,
    Bill


    WldBil
    Roswell
  9. report print email
    So be it...
    March 06, 2014 | 07:20 PM

    I enjoy being able to have a drink and smoke with the good folks at the Legion. However, most people don't smoke and some simply can't stand to be around it so the Legion is doing right for the majority. Glad there will still be smoking on the premises for the many Legionnaires who do enjoy tobacco.

    By the way, kudos to Home Depot for a great job on the remodeling.

    Machete
    Roswell
  10. report print email
    Smoking
    March 07, 2014 | 06:35 AM

    I am glad the move was made to ban smoking inside. That is the reason I only came occasionally to the Legion, I couldn't stand to be in there more than a half an hour with everyone smoking. It makes for a healthier environment for everyone. Thanks to the leadership of the Legion to recognize that this was keeping people from coming to the Legion.

    John Walters
    Woodstock
  11. report print email
    Post 201
    March 07, 2014 | 12:16 PM

    I'm happy to see the ban on smoking in the post.

    Mike Doorley
    Gainesville
  12. report print email
    New Entrance Doors Look Great
    March 10, 2014 | 07:17 AM

    The new Entrance doors look great but I wanted to make one comment that the Norton door closers are supposed to be mounted on the interior side of the door as they will not weather good when wet.

    Shiggy
    Johns Creek
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