The Department of Veterans Affairs ushered in a new policy this week making its healthcare facilities completely smoke-free.
Most notably, the policy, which took effect on Tuesday, eliminates designated smoking shelters that had been a fixture at many VA hospitals. Now, smoking is strictly prohibited on the grounds of all such facilities, a ban that applies to patients, visitors, volunteers, contractors, vendors, and employees. The change extends to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarette devices.
The VA said that the policy change represents a sweeping effort to combat the risks of second and even third-hand smoke.
“There is overwhelming evidence that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke creates significant medical risks,” the agency said in a release explaining the decision to eliminate designated smoking zones. “There is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke; it is dangerous to health even at low levels and can infiltrate barriers such as smoking shelters. There is a growing body of evidence that exposure to thirdhand smoke creates additional risks to safety and direct patient care. For instance, tobacco odors can trigger allergy or asthma reactions in others, or can trigger the desire to smoke in persons attempting to quit.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie