WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine introduced legislation to prohibit smoking at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The legislation would repeal an antiquated 1992 law that requires the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to furnish and maintain designated indoor or outdoor smoking areas. Supported by the VA, the bill would bring the Department in line with smoke-free policies across the federal government and in the private health care system.
“Veterans rely on the VA for crucial care, and it’s important that it be a healthy, smoke-free environment,” said Kaine. “I’m proud this bill offers bipartisan support to protect patients at the VA from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and tobacco use.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It kills more than 48,000 people annually.
Right now, there are nearly 1,000 designated indoor or outdoor smoking spaces at VHA facilities across the country—at least one in every state.
The VA recently determined that continuing to provide smoke areas on VHA property was not sustainable, and issued VHA Directive 1085 to institute a smoke-free policy by October 1, 2019. However, Congressional action is still necessary to repeal the 1992 law and codify VA efforts.
The legislation is supported by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and more than two dozen additional medical and public health organizations.