Veterans' Affairs:

Establishing Patient Smoking Areas at VA Facilities

HRD-93-104: Published: May 3, 1993. Publicly Released: May 3, 1993.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish smoking areas in VA facilities, focusing on: (1) how the law's requirements affect VA medical facility accreditations; (2) the cost to construct mandated smoking areas; and (3) how long it will take to construct these areas.

GAO found that: (1) VA medical facility accreditation will not change if the facility establishes mandated smoking areas; (2) 153 out of 159 VA medical facilities have at least one indoor or outdoor smoking area available to patients; (3) only 44 of the 153 facilities have at least one designated smoking area, either inside a patient care building or outside the facility, that meets the law's mandate; (4) the total cost of providing smoking areas in VA facilities will vary depending on the implementation strategy VA decides to use; (5) it will cost approximately $6 million to construct at least one designated smoking area at each VA facility; (6) most of the medical facilities could construct a mandated indoor or outdoor smoking area in less than 17 weeks; and (7) the establishment of smoking areas in VA medical facilities appears feasible, since VA facilities have the capability to construct these areas using separate ventilating systems and other environmental safeguards that minimize the potential health risks of tobacco smoke.

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