Wenstrup Bill to Make VA 100% Smoke-Free Reported Out of Committee
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously reported H.R. 1662 out of committee. This legislation was introduced by Congressman Wenstrup, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, and would prohibit smoking in any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility.
“Ensuring those who have served receive the best possible care is a national priority – and that starts with making sure our veterans receive the same considerations and treatment in the VA, as they would in the private sector,” said Chairman Wenstrup. “Requiring that VHA facilities become 100% smoke-free within the next five years helps bring VHA standards on par with those at private sector facilities, in order to better protect the health and well-being of our nation’s heroes. I am grateful for the Committee’s swift passage and look forward to this bills consideration on the House floor.”
“As a doctor and chairman, I am always concerned with the health and safety of America’s heroes, as well as those who accompany them to VHA facilities and VHA employees,” said Committee Chairman Phil Roe. “I thank Rep. Wenstrup for his leadership on this issue and look forward to passing this legislation that brings VHA’s smoking policies into the 21st century through the House.”
Background: According to VA, only 20 percent of veterans enrolled in the VHA are smokers. Many non-smoking veteran patients are at an increased risk for cardiovascular events associated with exposure to secondhand smoke. The VHA currently provides 971 outdoor designated smoking areas and 15 indoor designated smoking areas, as required by the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992. In contrast, smoking is prohibited in non-VA federal facilities, indoor military facilities and in most private-sector national healthcare systems.
Support: The following organizations wrote in support of Congressman Wenstrup’s legislation:
Association of the United States Navy: “On behalf of the Association of the United States Navy, we would like to pledge our support for H.R. 1662… Thank you for taking an active role in such an important issue to the military and veteran community by working to improve the lives and careers of those who served our grate nation.”
Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service: “The Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service (COA) wants to go on record as supporting H.R. 1662, your bill that would prohibit smoking in any facility of the Veterans Health Administration… Having smoke-free areas at VA medical facilities will undoubtedly contribute to a decrease in the number of deaths among veterans.”
Health Coalition Letter of Support: “We write in support of H.R. 1662, which would make facilities of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) smoke-free. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and exposure to secondhand smoke has a significant impact on Americans’ health.”
Resources: The VA provides a variety of smoking cessation resources for veterans looking to quit smoking, including medications, counseling, and online support on VA’s website and mobile apps. The department also offers free over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy medications to its employees. Additionally, The National Cancer Institute has a veteran-centric smoking cessation website, “SmokefreeVET,” which provides resources on reasons to quit, how to quit, and quitting smokeless tobacco. For immediate assistance, veterans are encouraged to call the VA’s smoking “quit line” for support from a smoking cessation counselor at: 1-855-784-8838 (1-800-QUIT-VET).
Congressman Brad Wenstrup has served in the U.S. Army Reserve since 1998, currently holding the rank of Colonel. In 2005-2006, he served a tour in Iraq as a combat surgeon, and was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service. During his time in Congress, Brad is fulfilling his Reserve duties by treating patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
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