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Middletown Moose, American Legion put an end to indoor smoking

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/26/20

The days of walking out of the local Moose Lodge and the American Legion with smoke-clogged clothes soon will be in the past.

Middletown Moose Lodge 410 went smoke-free at the start of the year, …

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Middletown Moose, American Legion put an end to indoor smoking

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The days of walking out of the local Moose Lodge and the American Legion with smoke-clogged clothes soon will be in the past.

Middletown Moose Lodge 410 went smoke-free at the start of the year, and American Legion Post 594 Middletown plans to be smoke free at the start of April.

“Food sales have increased,” Roger Beery, administrator of the Middletown Moose Lodge 410, told the Press & Journal. “We have taken a hit at the bar. There ain’t no doubt about it, we will lose members. But I think in the long run, it’s going to be a plus. It just might take a little bit of time.”

William Douglass, commander of American Legion Post 594, has been a member for 54 years.

Years ago, a lot more members smoked.

“It was just natural. You didn’t think much of it until you go home and all of a sudden your wife says, ‘Hey, hang your clothes up outside before you come in,’” Douglass said. “That’s one of the things people said, they don’t like going home smelling like smoke. That’s every club.”

David Donahue, Pennsylvania state president of the Moose Association, said the Moose realized that a lot of people weren’t smoking, but the lodges were catering to the smokers.

Members of the Moose voted to go smoke free during their 2019 International Moose Convention in Las Vegas.

Donahue said 77 percent of the male delegates from lodges voted to go smoke free, including Beery.

“We don’t have the smokers like we used to,” Beery said.

Donahue said the Moose had hoped that state legislators would ban smoking at social clubs.

“Someone had to take the jump, I guess,” Donahue said.

Across Pennsylvania, the 117 Moose lodges have lost about 2,000 members a year, which Donahue attributes in part to smoking.

Since the fraternity went smoke-free Jan. 1, 16 people have joined men’s Lodge 410, and Beery said people have also joined the Women of the Moose, Chapter 553.

Some of the men said they joined because the lodge went smoke-free, Beery said.

Parents are bringing in younger children.

“You didn’t want to bring your child in here. You might be a member, but you might have a child, and you don’t want to bring him into a place that’s smoke-infested,” Donahue said.

The Moose has installed “no smoking” signs, and Beery said they plan to clean the lodge thoroughly.

Some changes might be coming to the Middletown lodge. Beery said they’re hoping to build something to accommodate smokers — like a deck — in the spring.

“We don’t want to lose them,” Donahue said.

While supporting students who attend Mooseheart — which is a school near Chicago that is similar to the Milton Hershey School — and seniors who live in Moosehaven in Florida, Donahue said the organization has to address the future of the fraternity. The lodge encourages anyone interested in the Moose to walk into the lodge at 110 Mill St.

“We have to keep that going. I think we realize times are changing. My kids don’t have time anymore unfortunately to come to these places like our parents did or your parents might’ve done,” Donahue said.

Crystal Mrakovich, canteen manager with the VFW Post 1620, said there have been talks about going non-smoking at the state level, but as long as it’s not mandatory, the Middletown VFW will have smoking.

However, she’s prepared in case the VFW does have to become smoke-free.

“We put a deck on. That’s what the deck is for,” Mrakovich said.

While smoking is still allowed at other American Legions, the Middletown Post 594 will be smoke-free starting April 1.

Douglass said it seemed like clubs and Legions in neighboring states were smoke-free. He thinks eventually the state will make it mandatory to go smoke free.

So Post 594 polled its members, and the results showed that 53 percent favored going smoke-free.

“I think it’s the right thing to do for the members that don’t come in because of the non-smoking,” Douglass said.

Some of the members said they would go somewhere else if smoking was banned.

The Legion decided to push its date to go smoke-free to April because it didn’t want its members to have to go outside to smoke in the winter. In the future, the Legion wants to install something outside for smokers to go to stay out of the elements, but what exactly it is is still to be determined.

Now, a committee is working on making the building smoke-free, including painting and cleaning to prepare in part for an open house at noon May 17, which is also to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the post.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Douglass said.