Home News Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Make VAs Smoke Free

Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Make VAs Smoke Free

Cigarette Hand Smoking Smoke Tobacco Disease

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL), along with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to prohibit smoking at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health facilities. 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, including at VA hospitals and clinics.
“Those who served and sacrificed for our country deserve access to the best possible healthcare. Our veterans should receive the same considerations and treatment in the VA that they would in the private sector.Requiring that VHA facilities become 100 percent smoke-free helps bring VHA standards on par with private sector facilities and better protects the health and well-being of our nation’s heroes and the healthcare workers who care for them. It’s time that Congress change federal law to protect veteran patients and maintain the same smoke-free standard already in place at private hospitals,” said Rep. Wenstrup.
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and they deserve to receive the highest quality care,” said Rep. Underwood. “That’s why it’s critical that we make VHA facilities smoke-free like so many other hospitals and health centers across Illinois. I’m proud to help introduce this important, bipartisan legislation and ensure veterans are protected against the dangers of secondhand smoke.” 
“Veterans have made countless sacrifices serving our country, and we must do all that we can to ensure that they receive the quality health care they have earned,” said Sen. Collins. “The focus of VA hospitals should be promoting the health and wellbeing of the veterans they care for. By making VA facilities across the country entirely smoke-free, this bipartisan bill would further protect the health of veterans who rely on the VA for care.”
“The majority of veterans treated by the VA health care system do not smoke. We shouldn’t expose them to secondhand smoke when they are attending a doctor’s appointment,” said Sen. Durbin. “I care deeply about the health and well-being of our veterans, and this bill will help save lives. I’m leading this bipartisan, bicameral effort to protect veterans from the deadly consequences of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.
Click here to read the full text of the bill.
This legislation is supported by the the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and more than three dozen additional medical and public health organizations.
“We have a responsibility as a nation to protect the health of our veterans, and ensuring that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system is smoke-free is an essential step in supporting veterans’ long-term health. The VHA already plays an important role in providing cessation treatment to its patients and this legislation will enhance support for the VHA’s plan to maintain smoke-free facilities. The bill will ensure current and future generations of veterans are protected from the risks of secondhand smoke when they seek care at a VHA facility. We are grateful to Representatives Wenstrup and Underwood and Senators Durbin and Collins for their leadership on this important issue,” said Mark Schoeberl, Executive Vice President of Advocacy for the American Heart Association.
“Everyone deserves to breathe clean, smokefree air, and this is especially true for our nation’s veterans and their healthcare providers. Making all Veterans’ Health Administrations smokefree is a critical step to improve our veterans’ health as well as the nurses, doctors and others who take care of them,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “The American Lung Association has long advocated for tobacco-free policies, and this step for the VHA is long overdue. Thank you to Representatives Wenstrup and Underwood and Senators Durbin and Collins for introducing this important legislation.”
“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network commends Representatives Wenstrup and Underwood and Senators Durbin and Collins for introducing legislation that would protect our nation’s veterans’ ability to breathe smoke-free air at health facilities managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ensuring designated smoking areas in DVA-managed facilities are not brought back will protect thousands of veterans from exposure to the dangers of secondhand smoke while seeking the care they need. The legislation also guarantees physicians, nurses, volunteers and visitors are able to continue working in, or visiting, a smoke-free environment,” said Lisa Lacasse, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Wenstrup and Underwood and Sens. Durbin and Collins to make VHA facilities smoke-free. This legislation rightly recognizes that veterans should not be subjected to harmful secondhand smoke in order to receive medical care. It gives the force of law to the VHA’s directive making VHA facilities smoke-free and will help protect the health of current and future generations of veterans,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.