One-Woman War on Tobacco

For banning smoking in all the rooms and on the grounds of the Ocean Resort Inn, Virginia Galletta, its manager, has received an award from the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. Janis Hewitt

    Virginia Galletta, the manager of the Ocean Resort Inn, is on a mission to make Montauk a smoke-free place. In May she received an award naming her a tobacco-control champion from the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. Ms. Galletta is the first in the hamlet to ban smoking from rooms and the grounds of a motel. Ocean Resort Inn is on South Emerson Avenue in the downtown area, across the street from the ocean beach.
    A former smoker of unfiltered cigarettes for more than 40 years, she knows the consequences of tobacco use. For two and a half years she breathed through a tracheostomy tube inserted in her windpipe. She had to learn how to speak all over again and quit smoking cold turkey. After treatment she ended up with two holes in her throat, one of which she still holds her fingers to when she speaks, taking deep gasping breaths between words.
    “I felt double the effect of smoking because of the two holes,” she said.
    She is now an advocate who lectures anyone who comes into her office smelling of cigarette smoke. “There’s nothing worse than a reformed smoker, and I’m one of the worst. I yell at people,” she said recently in the office, which is filled with books and flowering orchids.
    So far, she said, no one has canceled a reservation upon learning that the motel has established a tobacco-free outdoor policy. “They walk over to the beach to light up,” she said.
    But that bothers her too, and she has a plan. She’d like not only to see all the motels and inns in Montauk become smoke free, she’d also like to have smoking banned from the beaches and is trying to get support from East Hampton Town officials. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson did not return a request for comment. The Montauk School is one smoke-free area.
    Ms. Galletta displays posters in her office showing babies, dogs, and birds playing with dirty cigarette butts. One says that cigarette butts are the most common form of litter.
    Several motel owners, Ms. Galletta said, have already banned smoking from rooms. But it’s hard to get them to agree to prohibit it on the grounds. “They’re all worried about hurting business, and that bothers me. I want to tell them they’re being an enabler.” Several motel owners declined to comment for this article.
    She said that when smoking was prohibited from bars and restaurants several years ago, people thought it would hurt business. “There was a lot of hoopla at that time, but everything worked out and some people can’t even imagine smoking indoors anymore.”
    At the inn, Ms. Galletta has piles of printed information for guests to take. One is a card to be signed by anyone interested in ending the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. “Isn’t that ridiculous? Pharmacies selling cigarettes?” she asked.
    Acknowledging that her plan might be hard to implement, she said motel owners could at least post a plaque saying that the management supports smoke-free areas and that would also identify a designated smoking section. Signs and other materials can be obtained online at Tobaccofreenys.org, she said.
    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Montauk became a smoke-free town?” Ms. Galletta asked.