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Butt out: No private smoking ban

October 21. 2013 9:40PM

There is an effort afoot to ban smoking in private clubs in the “Live free or die” state. To compound the irony, it originated with men who fought for our freedom. Of all people, they should know better.

The state already bans smoking in restaurants and bars on the theory that they are “public” places. Private clubs have been exempt in part because they are not open to the public and in part because state politicians did not want to curtail the freedoms of war veterans — who are members of private American Legion and VFW clubs.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, and Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, plan to introduce bills that would extend the smoking ban to private clubs. D’Allesandro told our reporter Garry Rayno that Mike Lopez, who heads Manchester’s Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2, asked him to introduce the bill. But Lopez’s Sweeney Post 2 successfully banned smoking in July. What do they care if other private clubs allow it?

During the smoking ban debates in 2007, many bar and restaurant owners urged legislators to support the ban. They wanted to go smoke-free, but were afraid of losing customers. If the state executed the ban, customers could not leave for a competing business that allowed smoking because none would exist.

After the ban passed, business increased at many bars and restaurants — and at private clubs, where some smokers fled.

Now we have the head of one American Legion post hoping to expand his successful no-smoking policy statewide by force of law. Why? Maybe he doesn’t want the competition from clubs that allow smoking. Or maybe he just really hates smoking. Either way, it’s none of his business whether other private clubs allow their members to smoke or drink or spit on the floor. Nor is it any of the state’s.

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