VSOs Raise Concerns About Proposed VA Smoking Bans

By Sandra Basu

A smoking cessation class at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, SC. VA photo

WASHINGTON — If a new law is passed, veterans living in facilities such as VA nursing homes would have only 90 days to phase out smoking in their rooms, according to veteran service organizations expressing concern about the proposal.

Lawmakers were considering legislation last month that would ban smoking in all VHA facilities almost immediately and outside thosefacilities within five years.

The bill would apply to all VHA medical centers, nursing homes, domiciliary facilities, outpatient clinics and centers that provide readjustment counseling.

“As a doctor and as a veteran, I feel strongly that we cannot continue to allow practices as toxic and damaging as smoking to continue taking place on VA medical facility campuses,” explained Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), DPM, who introduced the bill.

Currently VHA provides 971 outdoor designated smoking areas and 15 indoor designated smoking areas, as required by the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992. Wenstrup pointed out that most private sector hospitals and clinics “adopted 100% smoke-free policies for their facilities, grounds and buildings many years ago.”

“I recognize that some veterans and VA employees are smokers and that quitting can be a challenging uphill battle,” he said. “That’s why H.R. 1662 would allow smoking outside of VHA facilities to be phased out over a five-year period, rather than right away.”

Wenstrup also said he hoped that those veterans who are struggling to quit smoking would take advantage of VA’s “programs and interventions to support those who are trying to kick their smoking habit.”

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