Smoke-free bowling offers breath of fresh air

New smoke-free policy at Orchard Lanes spares bowlers’ lungs

Orchard Lanes has scored a strike among many of its customers with its new no-smoking policy. The bowling alley officially went smoke-free in August, following what has become a trend in the bowling industry.

“I firmly believe this is the future,” said Orchard Lanes owner Jeff Olson. “It was sort of risky for us, but we decided this was the right thing to do.” Olson and his wife, Judy, have owned the bowling alley for nearly 10 years; their son, Pat, manages it.

Olson said they’d discussed going smoke-free several times in the past few years, but decided to finally make the move this year due, in part, to the increasing number of complaints they were getting from non-smokers.

“People who don’t smoke are very sensitive to it,” Olson said. The new policy has been welcomed by non-smokers, according to Olson. And even those who smoke have, for the most part, taken it in stride.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Paul Clement of Cascade Locks, who was bowling in the Senior League on Wednesday. Clement, a smoker, has bowled at Orchard Lanes for seven years and doesn’t plan on stopping because of the new policy.

The Olsons have tried to ease the transition by turning the old pro shop into a smoking room for league bowlers. A ventilation system was installed in the room, and the window looking out on the lanes allows bowlers to see when they’re up next. Smoking for league bowlers is also allowed in the video poker room; it, too, has a new air ventilation system.

Despite these concessions, Olson said they expected some league bowlers — which number about 400 — to quit because of the new policy. But so far, only one league bowler has announced that he won’t bowl at the lanes anymore.

“Overall, people have reacted pretty well,” Olson said.

Several bowlers in the Senior League said they were happy about the change.

“It’s about time,” said John Lyon of Klickitat, Wash. “I’m extremely pleased about it.” Not only is it more pleasant to be at the lanes, he said, but he no longer goes home “smelling like smoke” — which, he added, pleases his wife.

George Hall of White Salmon agreed. “I’m a non-smoker, so I really appreciate it,” he said.

Olson, who has been “a bowling nut” all his life, said he has watched smoking go “down, down, down” in bowling alleys.

“I can remember back in the 1960s,” he said. “You’d walk in and you couldn’t see the back end for all the smoke.” Those days are gone now — especially at Orchard Lanes.

“We didn’t want to offend anyone,” Olson said. “But we figured the transition is occurring. We wanted to be ahead of the curve.”

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