WASHINGTON (WHSV) — Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has joined a number of other senators to propose a bill banning smoking at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
As of right now, VA facilities have to follow a 1992 law that requires the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to furnish and maintain designated indoor or outdoor smoking areas.
That runs counter to almost all private health care facilities, as well as federal government facilities, which have smoke-free policies.
Those policies help prevent people seeking health care from exposure to secondhand smoke, which has no risk-free level, according to the CDC.
“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.”
The other senators introducing the bill are Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Collins is the only Republican sponsoring the bill, as the other cosponsors are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
The bill is supported by a wide range of public health groups, including the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, banning smoking at VA facilities would save them money in the long run. Right now, maintaining the nearly 1,000 designated indoor or outdoor smoking spaces at VHA facilities across the country reportedly costs the VA more than $1.2 million a year.
The VA recently determined that continuing to provide smoking 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.