Hines, Ill. - April 2016: Edward Hines, Jr. Veteran's Hospital north entrance. New VA smoking ban also applies to e-cigarettes. Image: AB Images/Shutterstock.com

The VA has expanded a recently announced no-smoking policies in its facilities to apply to its employees, to be effective no later than the start of next year.

The department previously had announced a smoke-free policy applying to patients, visitors, contractors, volunteers and others in its facilities, citing the health risks of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. The policy applies not only to combustible tobacco products but also to e-cigarettes and similar devices.

Extending it to employees makes the policy more consistent and was supported by 85 percent of facility leaders in a survey, an announcement said.

The AFGE union filed a grievance against the department, stating that the policy change contradicts a memo of understanding between them that can be altered only in bargaining and that the VA has not sought to renegotiate it.