(Anchorage, AK) The assembly fails a smoking ban exemption for private clubs 8 to 3. One club in particular, the Eagles Aerie located in Peters Creek, claims the 2007 law making it illegal to light up in public places, has not only taken away its freedom of choice, but also its members.
Since the law started, Ted Williams Secretary for area 4174 says the private nonprofit club has made changes, like an airtight separate smoking room, with a total of 3 ventilators.
Williams says the choice whether to smoke or not isn't the total point, it's also about not enough money to help those in need.
"The funds we raise here, being that this is a private nonprofit club, that's the biggest thing about it, we give away most of our funds accept for what we need to operate with," Williams said.
When it comes to membership, Williams says it's dropped since the ban.
"Yes it did, oh God yes, our membership used to be up to about 280, now it's went down to about 182, oh yes, we are Living from a month to month operation right now."
The issue was brought to assemblymember Bill Starr.
"They approached me and it's my job to bring issues like this forth to the public and talk about the laws in existence," Starr said. " So, I think that's why you see them more than anything, they have declining membership, they've given me a classic case of where government is making the choice for them, and I think we've reached to far," he continued.
Starr says he doesn't believe smoking is good for you, however he believes those in private clubs, specifically the fraternal organizations, should have the right to have a separate smoking place inside.
"A lot of them are older veterans, some of that fraternal spirit is a social club, and part of that to them is the ability to go in and smoke," said Starr.
However some health experts say otherwise.
" What I'm concerned about is we know that 70% of smokers want to quit, at any given time, and if we place them in environments where they are exposed to smoke, it's going to make it harder," said Ward Hurlburt, Chief Medical Officer for The Department of Health and Social Services.
Advanced lung cancer survivor and former smoker, Patty Ginsburg agrees.
"Yes it's hard for people and it's hard for old folks, and we hate to see them having something else that's difficult, but you know what? Everyone else is doing it, and they are doing it OK," said Ginsburg. "So I don't know why this one club, feels that it's an undue burden on them, others are doing it just fine."