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Editorial: A bit of kindness for aged veterans

Some problems in society cry out for a change in the law. Some seem like they’d be solvable without the need for legislators’ involvement.

In the case of the smoking ban at the New Hampshire Veterans Home, it sure seemed like a conflict that might be worked out without State House involvement. That said, we’re encouraged that local legislators Howard Moffett of Canterbury and Lorrie Carey of Boscawen and others have gotten involved.

At issue is a ban on tobacco smoking at the Veterans Home in Tilton that took effect over the summer. There’s no smoking allowed on the campus – inside or out. The ban applies to staff and residents alike. Smokers who moved into the home before last fall – fewer than 10, according to the Veterans Home – are grandfathered in; but newcomers aren’t allowed if they smoke.

Potential residents of the Veterans Home are encouraged to see their doctors for smoking cessation assistance prior to admission. And, if they quit, they can continue to receive nicotine patches and other medications once admitted to the home.

We’re not fans of smoking. The broad societal move toward smoke-free workplaces, schools, residences and restaurants has been a vast improvement, protecting the health of millions of Americans along the way. We appreciate that employees at the Veterans Home deserve protection from secondhand smoke – not to mention the fact that cigarettes in the hands of certain residents can be a fire hazard.

Nonetheless, the notion of discriminating against aged veterans because of a smoking habit that many no doubt picked up while serving in the military – perhaps, in fact, encouraged by the military – seems a bit much.

Yes, veterans, like the rest of us, should quit smoking. But those who don’t or can’t still deserve the same opportunity as their peers to access the services of the state-run Veterans Home.

Moffett and Carey’s proposed bill would prohibit the Veterans Home from discriminating against vets who smoke. It would require staffers to conduct a study of smoking policies at state-funded veterans homes and explore the feasibility of smoking policies that allow vets to smoke in designated indoor and/or outdoor smoking areas with staff supervision. The bill would require a report to the Legislature and a new policy to accommodate veterans who smoke but otherwise qualify for admission to the home.

Eventually, perhaps, such accommodations won’t be necessary, as the anti-smoking attitudes that have taken hold among younger residents and in civilian life eventually make smoking among military veterans a thing of the past. But until we’re there, a little kindness is still in order.

It may seem harsh but it is much worse watching people die from lung cancer...a slow, sad, painful way to die. I witnessed it first hand in a relative with a Master's Degree in Nursing. Small cell carcinoma that metastasized relatively quickly, turning a 65 y/old woman in to an angry and helpless woman. The Board of Directors have evaluated what is best for the VA Home, the State does not need to get involved.

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