In a press release, the United States Congress says the legislation would repeal an old fashioned law from 1992 that requires the Veterans Health Administration to furnish and maintain designated indoor and outdoor smoking areas.
Congress says the bill would give the department smoke-free policies similar to those across the federal government and in health care.
“The vast majority of veterans enrolled in the VA health care system are non-smokers. I care deeply about the health and well-being of every veteran, and our bill ensures that those at our VHA facilities are protected from the deadly consequences of tobacco use and secondhand smoke,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. “This bill will help save the lives of some of America’s heroes.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States—killing more than 480,000 people annually—and there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. As such, the overwhelming majority of America’s private health care systems and facilities, most Department of Defense medical facilities, and all federal government buildings, are smoke-free.
Yet, Congress says there are nearly 1,000 designated indoor and outdoor smoking spaces as VHA facilities across the country. Additionally, they say these spaces cost the VA more than $1.2 million annually to maintain. The VA recently said providing these smoking areas on VHA property is not sustainable and issued VHA Directive 1085 to have a smoke-free policy by October 1 of this year. Congressional action is still needed to repeal the 1992 law and codify VA efforts.
The Congressional Budget Office says this bill would not impact spending and would save the VA money in the long run.
The legislation is supported by several organizations. Click here to see them all.