Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

VA systems nationwide to go smoke-free

All VA healthcare facilities will be smoke-free starting Oct. 1.

TEMPLE, Texas — All Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities will implement a no smoking policy this year, according to the VA..

The new policy was created to help ensure the health and well-being of VA staff, patients and the public.

"We're here for your health," said Kevin Maxson, the Acting Assistant Director of the Central Texas VA in Temple. "We definitely want to give people time, time to quit ahead of October 1st."

A recent survey suggested 85% of facility leadership support smoke-free campuses.

"Tobacco needs to be one of the things they need to eliminate out of their lifestyle," said Nancy Bullard, the CenTex VA Education Coordinator.

Jimmie McDonald, a U.S. Navy Veteran and former smoker said he agrees with the new policy.

"If you're in an environment where people already have health problems, you don't need to be smoking here," McDonald said.

Joe Pope, a retired U.S. Army Ranger, said he disagrees with the policy.

"Us veterans went through hell and if we want to smoke, we should have the right to smoke," Pope said. "This is a free country. That's what we fought for."

Historically, the VA has permitted designated smoking areas, but they say there's growing evidence that smoking and exposure to second and third-hand smoke is too risky.

Maxson said he doesn't feel the policy infringes on any veterans' rights.

"We're prepared for the conversation," Maxson said. "We're not telling them they can't smoke. They just can't smoke on VA property."

Robert Wilkie, the United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs says the transition to smoke free facilities is long overdue and puts the VA in line with other major health organizations.

“We are not alone in recognizing the importance of creating a smoke-free campus,” Wilkie said. “This policy change coincides with additional VHA efforts to help us become the provider of choice for veterans and the reason why veterans will choose VA.” 

The new policy applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, vape pens and e-cigars.

Read the full policy below.