A House lawmaker introduced legislation Wednesday to eliminate smoking areas inside and outside all Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

The VA maintains nearly 1,000 outdoor and 15 indoor smoking areas at VA health care facilities. The Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 requires the VA to offer smoking areas, though designated smoking areas at other federal facilities were closed in 2009. Supporters of the 1992 law said that any restrictions on smoking would violate veterans’ right to have access to a legal product.

Secondhand smoke from the areas unnecessarily puts veterans at risk, said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee on health for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. His proposed legislation would require the VA to close the smoking areas within the next five years.

Wenstrup argued it’s already policy at most private health care systems to completely ban smoking.

“As a doctor and veteran myself, ensuring that those who I have served alongside receive the best possible care is personal to me,” Wenstrup said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., a physician and chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he supported the bill.

“The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans should always come first,” Roe said in a statement.


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