Members of Congress want to drive out tobacco use from the military, especially among veterans.
Legislators held hearings Wednesday on the issue, with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin lashing out at the Pentagon for not working hard enough to curb tobacco use among young servicemembers, Military Times reports.
On the House side, members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs directed their attention to legislation that would target veterans, instead of the usual practice of slapping the Pentagon’s hand regarding tobacco consumption.
This new legislation, forwarded by Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, would ban smoking inside any VA health facility. Additionally, the bill would ban outdoor smoking at VA medical centers by 2022.
Currently, the Veterans Health Administration has 971 designed smoking areas outside, in addition to 15 indoor areas.
In the private sector, smoking is banned inside most national healthcare facilities.
Wenstrup, a surgeon, referred to the ban as a “common sense reform.”
“Exposure to secondhand smoke puts veteran patients at unnecessary risk. This common sense reform mitigates that risk by requiring VHA facilities to become 100% smoke-free within five years,” Wenstrup said last week in a press release. “As a doctor and veteran myself, ensuring that those who I have served alongside receive the best possible care is personal to me. But I believe it should be personal to every American. The least we can do for those who fought for us is ensure they receive the same considerations and treatments at the VA, as they would in the private-sector.”
The VA has already thrown its support behind the tobacco ban effort. Current estimates state that 20 percent of veterans enrolled in VA health care programs are smokers, but that rate is actually about the same in the general population, which means that the number of veterans smoking is already declining.
However, the VA noted that smoking among certain sub-groups of veterans is higher, namely those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and HIV.
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