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ADA supports bill to make Veterans’ facilities smoke-free

May 12, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA, along with 44 organizations, is asking Congress to support H.R. 1662, legislation that would make facilities of the Veterans Health Administration completely smoke-free.

In a May 11 letter to Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chair, Subcommittee on Health Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the coalition urged support for the bill, which includes banning most forms of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipes, in buildings under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“As a nation, we must do more to improve and protect the health of our veterans. Providing a smoke-free VHA system for our veterans is an important step in the right direction,” the coalition said. “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.”   

Because the U.S. surgeon general has determined “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” sick and disabled veterans should not be subjected to secondhand smoke in order to receive medical care, the coalition said.

People with heart disease are at higher risk for health complications if they are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. A 2015 health survey of 5.7 million veterans determined that nearly 1.5 million (25.5 percent) had hypertension; and 439,000 (7.7 percent) had coronary artery disease. That same survey also found that 300,000 veterans (5.2 percent) suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that people with lung disease are also at an increasing risk for health complications from secondhand smoke.

The coalition also said it was pleased the bill included cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and other combustible tobacco products in its definition of smoke and recommended that it include smokeless tobacco products as well. They also urged legislators to shorten the lengthy five-year implementation date regarding the smoke-free outdoors policy at VHA facilities.

For more information on the ADA’s advocacy efforts on tobacco visit ADA.org/tobacco.