Gamber's Gamble

February 25, 1994

We have a winner. Don't bother to hold your cards, it's positively confirmed: Smoke-free bingo at the Gamber and Community Fire Hall.

That's one small breath for man, one giant breather for mankind.

The decision to ban smoking at all events held at the volunteer fire company's building risks losing some good bingo customers. Many regular players are notorious for compulsively puffing away as they intently scan their cards looking for a matching number to mark. And weekly bingo games, which can fill the hall to its 300-person capacity, are a financial foundation of the Gamber fire company, nay, of many fire companies.

"Bingo pays a lot of the bills," notes Edward J. Kreczmer, president of the Gamber company. That's about $30,000 a year. But the group decided last year, without much fuss, to prohibit smoking in the hall for all activities.

While a number of the volunteers had silently fumed at the heavy smoking that filled the building during weekly bingo, it was the federal government's report on the dangers of second-hand smoke that resulted in the ban.

Members of the fire company repainted the walls and hung fresh curtains to remove the tobacco odor from the hall. Many of the volunteers who work the events and auxiliary youths are grateful for the change to a smoke-free environment.

Gamber is the first fire hall in Carroll County to impose a complete ban, and Mr. Kreczmer would like others to follow the example. Some fire hall operators have separated smokers and non-smokers with limited success. Gamber's gamble may have shooed away nicotine addicts to smokier venues elsewhere; the Arctic weather has also cut attendance.

Smokers still swarm outside the Gamber hall to indulge their habit, whether at a crab feast or on bingo nights. But even that inconvenience is starting to have some impact, helping some folks to cut down on their tobacco consumption and bolstering ** the resolve of others to quit completely.

"The day has come to cut down on the right to pollute the air," says Mr. Kreczmer, a former smoker who has seen the ill effects of smoking first-hand in emergency medical responses. "We see a lot of people with lung problems and trouble breathing."

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