Split on smoking

EVERETT — Sheri Johnson was on the verge of quitting her evening bowling league.

It wasn’t her average score. It wasn’t her teammates. It was the smoking.

She loved spending Wednesday nights at Evergreen Lanes with her league, the "Wild Bunch," but as a nonsmoker she was in the minority. Johnson said many in her league smoked, and cigarettes were always smoldering in ashtrays.

"I wasn’t going to join my league again because the smoke was so bad," she said. "When I go home from bowling on my bowling night, I have to drop my clothes in the laundry room and take a shower. It takes you two days to breathe right after that."

Not only does she bowl at Evergreen Lanes, she works as a bookkeeper there.

The alley has three smoke-free days each week, but people still smoke in the evenings and the smell is still around.

Johnson was both surprised and delighted when her boss, professional bowler Darrell Storkson, announced at a recent staff meeting that Evergreen Lanes is going smoke-free on May 1.

"I was doing the happy dance," Johnson said. "I think it’s a big deal. We get phone calls daily from people wondering if we’re nonsmoking. People want to bring families in, and kids, where there’s not a lot of smoke. As a parent, I feel the same way."

Storkson, who bought into Evergreen Lanes in 1966, has toured for years as a bowler. He will allow smoking in his business’s enclosed lounge area, but not the bowling alley or its restaurant.

After experiencing and enjoying smoke-free alleys while bowling in California and Oregon, Storkson decided to take the plunge in his own alley.

"Well, I’ve been thinking about doing it for two years. I’ve just been contemplating it," Storkson said. "It’s tough to make a decision that’s probably not a good business decision, but I decided I’d rather have a bowling center without smoke even if it costs a little business."

Storkson and his wife, Marjorie, said although they are in favor of current legislative bans on smoking in public places, theirs is a personal decision and not a political one.

"There are people that are going to be upset with us, but it’s a personal decision to make our lanes a more family-oriented place, and better for people who want to get away from smoke," Marjorie Storkson said. "It’s got nothing to do with (the state smoking bills) at all. The timing just happened that way."

Of the nine bowling alleys in Snohomish County, Evergreen Lanes will be the first to ban smoking in its main areas, said Mandi George, a health educator with the Snohomish Health District’s tobacco prevention and control program.

George works to educate businesses about the effects of secondhand smoke on employees and customers. She said she was thrilled to hear about the Storkson’s decision.

"Smoking is banned in libraries, offices, grocery stores … yet we’re not protecting these other work sites — bartenders and waitresses," she said. "Waitresses are more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease than any other occupation."

Restaurant and casino workers inhale three to six times as much secondhand smoke as workers in other professions, she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency says there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure, she said. Five minutes of this exposure is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette, she added.

For Johnson, her boss’s decision means a more enjoyable workplace and more Wednesday nights with the Wild Bunch.

"Most smokers are very considerate of a nonsmoker’s feelings," she said.

Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or jwarnick@heraldnet.com.

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