Non-smoking Veteran posts become popular


During my years of reporting on military and veterans issues, I would sometimes go into Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Posts’ canteens.

I can tell you that it was much more of a pleasure going into the posts after many of them decided to not allow smoking inside anymore.

That’s also when some of the posts began attracting non-smoking veterans who before did not go into their canteen because of the smoke.

Now that smoking cigarettes seems to be less popular, many of the posts are smoke-free.

When that trend was starting in Brevard a few years ago, Duane Podhola took up the mantle for a new VFW post of which he was commander. The post no longer exists, but he also encouraged other posts that are now non-smoking.

“A lot of them have gone non-smoking,” said Podhola, who is a member of American Legion Post 117 and VFW Post 4206. “We go in, have a beer and chat with the guys.”

Podhola of Palm Bay, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971, can name off a list of posts that do not allow smoking inside any longer.

Going into a canteen or even a bar to puff on a cigarette while nursing a beer is becoming a thing of the past.

Most indoor smoking is banned in public places in Florida and in other states. Some organizations and businesses do not allow smoking anywhere on their property, even outdoors. For some time now, the veterans posts had been the exception.

It is not clear how many posts are now smoke-free because the local posts set their own smoking policy, though their national offices have encouraged non-smoking to help attract the non-smokers among the veterans.

Non-smoking post canteens still do accommodate the smokers. Most have covered outdoor areas for those who smoke.

While I rarely visit a post any more, it is easier for me as a non-smoker to feel more comfortable inside interviewing someone.

Post commanders said they wanted to go non-smoking to attract some of the young veterans who were returning from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. That has not really occurred in large numbers. However, the posts report that in recent years they have attracted veterans who are non-smokers.

Now, smokers who puff outside and non-smokers can all be a part of the camaraderie veterans share at the posts.

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