Lodge bans smoking, sees membership surge

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VENICE, Fla. - Toni Schaberick has tended bar at Venice Moose Lodge 1308 for quite a while.

"Long time," said Schaberick, "six and a half years."

She's also a smoker. So when she heard the lodge, the kind of place known for attracting smokers, was going to become smoke-free, she was skeptical.

"It's mixed feelings for me, because when I go out, having a drink, I like to be able to smoke at the bar," said Schaberick."

She admits though, the ban has made for a more enjoyable place to work; and the customers don't seem to mind it either.

"They love it," said Schaberick, "and I don't blame them there I don't like smoke when I'm eating either."

In fact, lodge leaders say their membership has exploded since passing the ban. They're now at more than 4,000 members.

"I think what it's done is attract more of the non-smoking population which is ever increasing in our area of course," said current lodge governor Gil Nalley.

Not just in the area, but across the whole country. Data from the CDC shows that in 2012, the number of smokers fell from twenty-eight percent of the population to twenty-three percent.

"I think it's definitely the trend in terms of health...the trend of non-smoking and I think this dovetails right into that trend," said Nalley.

The lodge still keeps a smoking section on a connected patio, but says more members are joining because there's less smoke.

"I had seven couples that wouldn't join," said member "Junie" Fontana, "the minute we went non-smoking, all seven couples joined."

And as the number of smokers continues to fall, some say so to will the number of establishments offering a place to light up.

"I wouldn't doubt very shortly that all the lodges are going to go non-smoking," said Fontana.