03 philippe goulet zg9dfG9IHL0 unsplashAt the past Cumberland County Veterans Council meeting we were informed by an assistant director of the VA Medical Center that, effective Oct. 1, there will be no smoking on the campus grounds of VA facilities. It came across that there was no warning that this prohibition was coming, and it hit the ears as a slam-dunk directive and (was) effective immediately.

I do believe most people will agree that a no-smoking policy should stand and be enforced inside all VAMC buildings for health reasons. VA has instituted many smoking cessation programs, and they are well received and are helping many veterans. However, over many recent years, medical practitioners have noted that some people are truly addicted to tobacco and will not quit or break their habits. Some truly enjoy smoking the various tobacco products and have done so for years and years, regardless of the known risks smoking entails to themselves and others.

VA set up outside pavilions so smokers could go outside the facilities, and they served the smoking veterans well and kept them away from the nonsmokers — which was also well received. Now these smoking areas are off limits, forcing the veterans who smoke to leave the VA campus. This decree coming down from VA, in my humble opinion, is not well studied in regards to the psychological affects it will have on many veterans who have PTSD and other debilitating health issues.

Smoking and its nicotine gives them a calm and relaxing time,  which helps them cope in their own way. Taking this away from these veterans will not serve their general well-being by forcing them off campus to smoke. Will this adverse action cause veteran suicides to increase? Personally, I suffered immensely over my 79 years being raised in a smoking family. My parents, brother, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles all smoked. In 26 years in the U.S. Army, I was forced to attend countless meetings and conferences with smoke clouds so thick, at times, you could not see across the room.

I have never smoked and don’t like being subjected to it by others. I find it quite discourteous of some smokers, regardless of rank or position, who force their rancid and smelly habits upon others and expect us to tolerate them.

I still must offer words of support for my brother and sister veterans who have served their country well and find themselves in health harm’s way only to find comfort in having a smoke but having to leave the premises to do so. This is not helping the psychological well-being of the military veteran. Keep the smoking pavilions open on campus for those who need them. This situation that VA has slam-dunked on the veteran smokers should be discussed and challenged by every military fraternal organization from local to state and national headquarters, as with your help this adverse situation can be corrected by VA.

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