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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Targets the Nation’s Leading Killer

April 11, 2013

In an effort to improve the health of Veterans, volunteers, visitors, and staff, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) will severely limit smoking on its campus this year. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

“Tobacco smoke is a proven health hazard that affects both smokers and non-smokers,” said Adam C. Walmus, M.H.A., M.A., F.A.C.H.E., Medical Center director. “The decision to change our smoking policy reflects the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center’s commitment to improve the health of our Nation’s heroes.”

Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers.

The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.

Smoking at the MEDVAMC will only be allowed in designated smoking shelters. Veterans, employees, volunteers, and visitors will be ticketed for smoking outside of these designated areas.

A study by the Institute of Medicine, requested by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon, revealed that one in three service members use tobacco, compared with one in five adult Americans. Combat veterans are 50 percent more likely to use tobacco than troops who have not seen combat.

The MEDVAMC offers a wide range of assistance to help reduce nicotine addiction including smoking cessation classes, step-by-step manuals, one-on-one counseling, prescription medications, nicotine replacement products, and other related items. Veterans should talk with their VA health care team today about available options.