Western North Carolina VA Health Care System to go smoke free by Oct. 1, 2019

Press release from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: 

As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) and the Western North Carolina Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s (WNCVAHCS) commitment to provide excellent health care for Veterans, the WNCVAHCS will implement a new policy restricting smoking by patients, visitors, volunteers, contractors and vendors at its health care facilities beginning October 1, 2019.

Although VA facilities have historically permitted smoking in designated areas, there is growing evidence that smoking and exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke creates significant medical risks, and risks to safety and direct patient care that are inconsistent with medical requirements and limitations. Accordingly, VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and WNCVAHCS has collaborated with key stakeholders to update and recertify the policy to be consistent with the department’s commitment to Veterans and the community.

A recent VA survey revealed that approximately 85% of responding facility leadership support smoke-free campuses, and this new policy for patients, visitors, volunteers, contractors and vendors allows VA to ensure the health and well-being of VA staff, patients and the public.

“We are not alone in recognizing the importance of creating a smoke-free campus,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “As of 2014, 4,000 health care facilities and four national health care systems in the U.S. have implemented smoke-free grounds. This policy change coincides with additional VHA efforts to help us become the provider of choice for Veterans and the reason why Veterans will ChooseVA.”

WNCVAHCS’ new smoke-free policy extends to all VA Health Care properties within its coverage area and applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, any other combustion of tobacco and non-Federal Drug Administration approved electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), including but not limited to electronic or e-cigarettes, vape pens or e-cigars.

To learn more about health risks associated with smoking, visit the Surgeon General’s website at https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/tobacco/index.html or https://smokefree.gov/.

VHA has extensive resources and programs to assist Veterans in their smoke-free journey. They can be found at  https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/quit-tobacco/.

For additional information about the policy visit: https://www.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=8242

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