Members of the Germania-Schwaben Singing Society, a German club in Bridgeport, rarely discuss banning smoking.

"We picked up members when (state lawmakers) took it out of the restaurants," Art Garber, the society's past president, said Tuesday. "They talk about it once in a while, but there's a lot more smokers than non-smokers."

This could be the year Germania-Schwaben and other private clubs lose their right to decide.

The Legislature's Public Health Committee has scheduled a hearing for 11 a.m. this morning in Hartford to extend the seven-year-old ban on lighting up in restaurants and bars to private clubs, among the last oases for smokers.

"It was carved out when the smoking ban in restaurants was first run. And every year we have requests from legislators that we take a look at it," Co-chair Rep. Elizabeth Ritter, D-Waterford, said. "I don't think it's a big statement to say times have changed on this issue. But not for everybody, understandably. And it's a question of finding that balance."

If enacted, Connecticut would join 15 states plus Washington, D.C., in stopping smoking in clubs, according to the American Lung Association.

Pat Checko, chairman of the Mobilize Against Tobacco for Connecticut's Health Coalition, or MATCH, was optimistic the ban will be extended this session.

"We all know when the (2003) law was passed there were deals that had to be cut, and this was clearly one of them," Checko said. "The bottom line is it is a public health hazard (and) there's just no reason to allow such a waiver anymore."

Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, proposed legislation preventing smoking in clubs for a constituent frustrated over the ongoing debate at his Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Fasano supported banning smoking in restaurants and bars, but wonders whether targeting clubs is "a step too far."

"From a heart and lung cancer viewpoint, all those arguments as to why I supported the first bill are there and tough to overcome," he said. "But, hey, if you think the club shouldn't have smoke, change the bylaws or don't join the club."

Ritter believes veterans will play a major role in the fate of the Health Committee bill.

"That's a group that's divided on this issue (and) that's probably been the group in the past the Legislature has had the most concern about being aggrieved," Ritter said.

Richard DiFederico, commander of the Connecticut Veterans of Foreign Wars, said legislators need to leave clubs alone.

"These politicians call us up to fight. C'mon. Let the veterans organizations run themselves," he said.

DiFederico is a member of the Oakville VFW, which has rooms for smokers and non-smokers. And he said the group a year ago eliminated smoking on bingo nights.

Ronald Rusakiewicz, the state VFW's adjutant, has heard non-smoking posts actually gain members.

Rusakiewicz, who quit smoking, said it can be frustrating for non-smokers who want the issue addressed. He belongs to the Stratford VFW, which voted against a ban.

But Rusakiewicz said the post has since spent hundreds of dollars installing equipment to stop the spread of smoke -- money that will have been wasted should the state force a ban.

Non-veterans clubs have also taken pro-active measures to curb or end smoking.

Tony Cossu, a member of the Knights of Columbus in Greenwich, said that organization banned smoking a year ago.

"I have to admit it does bother me when somebody blows smoke in my face or when I'm at a bar stool and somebody's smoking," Cossu said. "But I think it should be up to the individual clubs."

"They notified all the members they were going to stop smoking, so guess who came? The smokers," Rusakiewicz said. "People you hadn't seen in 10 years at the meeting were there."