Mar 22, 2010
New assault on workplace smoking ban launched
The Michigan workplace smoking ban that will ban smoking in bars and restaurants will not go into effect until May 1, but there is already an attempt to weaken the law.
Apparently, there is a petition drive underway to exempt American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts from the ban because they are private clubs, and those organizing the petition drive are trying to play on patriotism to duck the ban that protects the majority of people who do not smoke from deadly secondhand smoke.
“Army veteran Mike Stapleton said clubs where those who fought to defend the freedoms of this nation gather should be exempt from the state’s smoking ban,” according to an AP report that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press.
“It’s wrong for lawmakers to tell us private clubs what to do,” said Stapleton, 61, who served in the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars.”
I could not disagree more. I am also a Desert Storm veteran, and I think veterans should follow the laws just like other citizens.
The fact is deadly secondhand smoke kills, and many veterans simply cannot go into their local VFW or Legion post because of smoking. People from Livingston County will recall the old Legion Post 141 at the corner of Grand River and M-59 that was torn down and replaced with a beautiful new club. Just the smell of smoke was so bad there that many people could not come in even when the club was empty.
Even military leaders have recognized the harmful effects of smoking, both first and secondhand smoke. My military career reflects that. Like most teens, I tried smoking, but I had quit by the time I joined the Navy.
One of the things I remember from boot camp was being woken up at 3 am. to my company commander angry because he claimed he found a cigarette butt in the head. That led him to confiscate every single cigarette and lighter from us. He would then hand them out one at a time when he granted the company a smoke break.
For the rest of boot camp that smoke break was the carrot and the stick. If we did well, we got a smoke break. If we didn’t, no smoke break. So, three or four times a day we would all pour into a small lounge attached to our barracks - smokers and non-smokers alike - and some 40 guys would choke down as many cigarettes as they could in 5 minutes. Since I was practically smoking anyway, I became a smoker, and for the next 20 years I was a heavy smoker.
Once I got to my first ship, there were few places you could not smoke, with the
exception of your rack and during General Quarters because ventilation was turned off in case of a NBC attack. The cheapest place in the world to buy cigarettes was on a U.S. Navy ship at sea because you did not pay local, state and federal taxes. The point is there was a culture of smoking.
But over the years that began to change. First, you could not smoke in the berthing compartment, and then in your work space. Finally, in 1989, the ship I was on, barred smoking inside, and you had to go outside on the weather deck to smoke. That was a few years ago, and I’m sure more restrictions have been placed on smoking since then, especially after the Surgeon General’s report.
I hope this pro-smoking effort fails, and the legislation respects the will of the people.The sacrifices veterans have made for this country should be respected, and their health should be protected.