VFWs snuff out ‘smoke ’em if you got ’em’ policy
March 9, 2014
R. Norman Moody
ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — The opportunity for veterans inside a VFW canteen to light up a cigarette as they nurse a beer is being blown away by a push for smoke-free posts.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Rocket Post 4534 is the latest in a growing number of VFW posts and other gathering places for veterans to make the decision to ban smoking inside its buildings.
Some regulars have not been seen in the canteen since the decision a few days ago, but commanders hope a sign out front that touts the “No smoking Post” could attract some new members.
“I’m an ex-smoker, so I feel their pain,” post commander Ron Greco said. Now smokers gather at tables under a large tent outside next to the post.
Though most indoor smoking is banned in public places in Florida and other states, the posts, which are not normally open to the public, are an exception.
While the posts set their own smoking policies, the VFW’s national offices have encouraged the locals to consider going smoke free to help attract non-smokers and young veterans.
“To attract the new generation you have to meet their needs,” said Joe Davis, a national VFW spokesman. “One way is having non-smoking posts.”
Each post can vote on whether they want to go smoke-free, he said. The VFW and the American Legion could not give an estimate of how many posts are smokeless.
Earlier generations of service members were all but encouraged to smoke. During World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, soldiers received cigarettes along with their field rations.
That changed in 1986 when the Pentagon banned the use of tobacco during basic training and increased the number of designated nonsmoking areas.
Some veterans are adamant about their right to smoke.
“I did five tours in ‘Nam, now I got to come to this crap,” said Navy veteran Bob Cinelli of Melbourne as he smoked under the tent outside the post.
But sitting at the bar inside the post, Paul Knapp said he is glad the building is now nonsmoking.
“I think we’re beginning to see that everybody should give up the cigarettes,” he said.