Recently introduced legislation would formally prohibit smoking at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The legislation is another attempt by lawmakers who have introduced the bill previously to repeal an old law which facilitates smoking at VA facilities. It is being sponsored in the House (H.R. 3883) by Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and in the Senate (S. 2043) by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).
A 1992 law requires that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must furnish and maintain designated indoor or outdoor smoking areas at its facilities. The lawmakers say this must be repealed for the health and safety of veterans and other federal employees and visitors to VA facilities who may be exposed to second hand smoke.
The legislation appears to largely be a formality at this point to codify the change to the law since the VA announced in 2019 that it was banning smoking at its facilities effective October 2019. A policy memo issued at that time said, “Consistent with its core health mission, as authorized in 38 U.S.C. 7301(b), it is VHA policy that all VHA health care facilities will be smoke-free for employees effective October 1, 2019. Accordingly, at VHA health care facilities, by that date all designated smoking areas for employees must be eliminated.”
In a statement about the bill, Durbin said, “The vast majority of veterans enrolled in the VA health care system do not smoke. I care deeply about the health and well-being of every veteran and this bill will help save lives. I’m glad to help lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort to protect veterans from the deadly consequences of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.”
Wenstrup added, “As an Army Reserve doctor, I know that exposing patients to firsthand or secondhand smoke is dangerous, especially when they receive treatment at a VHA facility. Every veteran deserves the best care possible, which includes access to smoke-free hospitals. I’m proud to lead in this bipartisan, bicameral effort to ensure our VHA facilities are in line with private sector smoke-free standards.”