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Organizations made great decision to ban smoking: Editorial

Posted 3/4/20

We applaud the recent steps taken by the Moose Lodge and the American Legion in Middletown to end indoor smoking.

Smoking is a harmful, costly, stinky habit that affects not only those who are …

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Organizations made great decision to ban smoking: Editorial

Posted

We applaud the recent steps taken by the Moose Lodge and the American Legion in Middletown to end indoor smoking.

Smoking is a harmful, costly, stinky habit that affects not only those who are smoking but those around them. While the chances of it ever completely going away in our society are slim, we appreciate any step that can be taken to limit it locally.

Many people don’t remember that as recently as the 1980s, you could smoke just about anywhere — at work, in schools and restaurants, on planes and buses, and even in hospitals.

In the early 20th century, smoking was the cool thing to do. It wasn’t even thought to be harmful to your health. In fact, many cigarette brands included explicit health claims, according to the National Library of Medicine (part of the federal National Institutes of Health). For example: “They don’t get your wind” (Camel, 1935), “Gentle on my throat” (Lucky Strike, 1937), and “Fresh as mountain air” (Old Gold, 1946).

The 1964 report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee started a significant change, as the devastating health consequences of smoking and later second-hand smoke became common knowledge.

Warning labels started appearing on packs of cigarettes. Public service announcements spread the word about the ills of cigarettes. Cigarette advertising on radio and television in the United States was banned.

Now, despite the best efforts of the tobacco lobby to convince people otherwise, “all of the major tobacco companies have websites acknowledging that smoking is a cause of disease and that smoking is addictive. Yet none of these companies has ever admitted that millions of people have died as a result of smoking their products or that addiction to nicotine can cause death. No company has admitted ever marketing to children, or lying to the public, or forming a conspiracy to deny the hazards of smoking,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year: nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke.

There is good news. An estimated 14 percent of adults, or 34.3 million people, smoked cigarettes in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1965, that figure was 42.4 percent.

But still, according to the CDC, each day, about 2,000 people younger than 18 years old smoke their first cigarette. That’s despite all we know about their devastating effects. Many young people think they will live forever.

We appreciate that these local organizations made the change not because they had to (they would be exempt as private clubs from laws that restrict smoking in public establishments). They did it because they thought it was the right thing to do.

“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.”

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.

When American Legion Post 594 polled its members, 53 percent favored going smoke-free. That’s not exactly an overwhelming majority.

But, as William Douglass, commander of American Legion Post 594 and a 54-year member, said: “I think it’s the right thing to do for the members that don’t come in because of the non-smoking.”

Middletown VFW Post 1620 has discussed going smoke-free, but for now it has not implemented a smoking ban. It will be interesting to see if it eventually follows suit.

The Moose and the Legion might take some membership hits, and they might be criticized by some for their actions. But not by us. We wholeheartedly support it, and wish both organizations a healthy membership moving forward.