WOODSTOCK — Generations remember social and charitable clubs like the Moose lodge on Moose Road in Woodstock as dimly illuminated bars where members could talk over drinks while lighting up.
At Lodge 1329 a smoking ban put in place in the main hall on Nov. 1, 2016 by vote of lodge members has improved more than air quality.
“Right now we have about 1,100 members, our membership has improved steadily,” said Bill Rice, who manages the lodge.
The lodge had 834 members at the time smoking stopped.
When talk of going smoke-free started some warned of losing membership.
Rice was worried. He did not want to harm the lodge but felt the responsibility to listen to the members.
Rice said 110 members came out to vote in the special election. They wanted the main hall of the lodge to be smoke-free.
“We heard our members,” Rice said.
People have a right to smoke but others have a right to clean air. It was important to accommodate everyone, Rice said.
The Woodstock lodge did that that by converting an addition into a designated smoking area with its own ventilation system.
Initially some members left. However, the flight of members did not last long before membership mushroomed.
Today, as word spread, the lodge even receives the occasional transfer — someone from another lodges that still allows smoking.
“I have heard things like ‘this place smells better’ and ‘How nice it is to be able to sit in here and not choke,” Rice said.
Moose members Roger Ernst and Susan Linton were at the club on Thursday eating lunch.
Ernst is a member of four lodges, three of which have voted to be non-smoking.
He occasionally visits the Winchester Moose, the first lodge he joined, to visit friends but does not go more often because they still allow smoking.
“I will support my non-smoking lodges,” Ernst said.
For Ernst, it is a matter of smoking and second-hand smoke hurting the health of members and employees.
He and Linton love to dance.
It was hard for Linton to handle the smoke at those lodges. Ernst said at times the bottom of his lungs would burn from the smoke.
“Anyone not visiting non-smoking clubs is missing out. Check them out, get someone you know to bring you in,” Ernst said.
The lunch time crowd has doubled at the Woodstock lodge, he said.
That includes Robert “Tippy” Pangle.
“I was very much in favor of no smoking,” Pangle said while at the lodge on Thursday to eat lunch.
He likes being able to come in, eat and being able to leave without his clothes smelling like smoke.
Pangle’s wife can now join him at the lodge. She has had lung surgery.
“She could not handle the smoke,” Pangle said.
The move to go smoke-free is supported by the American Cancer Society Action Network.
“The American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN) supports everyone’s right to breath clean smoke-free air,” said Brian Donohue, government relations director. “Each year in the United States, more than 41,200 adult non-smokers die from heart disease and lung cancer caused by exposure to second hand smoke.”
That includes workers.
Bartender Ashley French has worked at the lodge for three years.
French was pregnant while working at the Woodstock lodge when smoking was still allowed
“I had to stop working. First I was a high risk pregnency and two the doctors said the second hand smoke was not good for the child, especially while pregnant so after the first trimester I quit,” French said.
Her co-worker, Casey Orndorff, who is pregnant, will not have to worry about that in a smoke-free environment.
The Front Royal Moose went smoke-free three years ago after a members vote.
Ben Auterback, administrator of the Front Royal lodge, said it was not an easy road.
“We had a lot of people complaining. People with families did not come in, Auterback said.
The Front Royal Moose Lodge offers an outdoor space to those needing to smoke.
Membership at the Front Royal lodge is at 1,000, climbing close to the 1,200 it was before the ban.
“It is now a cleaner, healthier environment,” Auterback said.
Both lodges are seeing more families coming in. Younger crowds are how the lodges will survive, Rice said.