JULY 3, 2006 - Posted at 7:55 a.m. CST
HOT SPRINGS, AR - Arkansas veterans of past wars say soldiers fighting in Iraq may be kept away from gatherings back home with others who share that background by the state's new smoking ban. That also could keep them from learning how to take advantage of their government benefits.
The new state law bans smoking in workplaces and takes effect July 21. It exempts certain establishments, including bars that don't allow anyone under the age of 21 on the premises.
With an exemption, many military service organizations could allow smoking but would have to post a sign saying anyone under 21 would not be allowed in.
Bill Hill of the VFW Post #2278 in Hot Springs says many of the soldiers in Iraq are in that age group and they've got no place to go when they come home. He says the group is having a hard time accepting the possibility of turning them away. He said a smoking ban also would hurt the group's community work, since the Boy Scouts, for instance, could not come to the post for activities there.