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Tobacco-Free Campus starts January 1

James Robinson and Wilton Bowles attend a smoking cessation class at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC led by instruction Jamie Baker, NP. Photo by Michael Romeo.
James Robinson and Wilton Bowles attend a smoking cessation class at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC led by instruction Jamie Baker, NP. Photo by Michael Romeo.

On Jan. 1, 2020, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center will join the rest of the Veterans Health Administration and implement a tobacco-free campus at its medical center, its community clinics and off-site locations.

This change is consistent with the VA’s mission to promote a healthy environment for patients, visitors, vendors, volunteers, contractors and employees and is an important step to improving the health care system.

U.S. Navy Veteran James Robinson started smoking when he was 13-years-old and now he’s proud to say he’s been smoke-free since February 2019 thanks to the assistance he received at Charleston VAMC.

“My health and even the taste of my food is better,” said Robinson.

Robinson credits the smoking cessation classes offered at Charleston VAMC with the support he needed to quit smoking.

“When I first got into it I thought it was a joke,” said Robinson, when talking about Charleston VAMC’s smoking cessation class. “But, when I really got into it and saw how serious the instructor was and how she was concerned about our well- being – I took it to heart.”

Once he started engaging in classes, he decided to put everything he had into changing his mindset. The information provided in class was just what Robinson needed to jump start his smoke-free lifestyle.

Wilton Bowles, a U.S. Navy Veteran, was a smoker for more than 50 years when he decided to quit; he now celebrates 6 years as a non-smoker. Bowles was surprised how quickly his body began to heal itself from the moment he decided to lay that first cigarette down.

“I wanted to live,” said Bowles, who also participated in the smoking cessation classes offered at Charleston VAMC.

“For one thing, the instructor was a smoker for 10 years and that’s inspiration for all of us,” said Bowles. “I think the [VA medical center] campus going smoke-free would be good…that’s good for everybody.”

Want to join Veterans like Robinson and Bowles, and kick-off the new year smoke-free?

Veterans interested in group counseling can join the Tobacco Cessation Group meeting on Tuesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. This is a walk-in group; no appointment is necessary. Check-in on the 5th floor of the medical center at room A501. Group and one-on-one meetings are also available at Charleston VAMC’s community outpatient clinics. For more information on clinic resources click here.

There is also additional VA support for Veterans that can be great resources for Veterans with busy schedules:

  • Smoking Quitline: a counselor will help you create your own personal quit plan over the phone when you call 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838).
  • Smokefreevet Text Service: a free text messaging service that sends daily support, advice, and encouragement directly to your mobile phone. Sign up for the program in English by texting the word VET to 47848 from your mobile phone or by visiting For Spanish, text VETesp to 47848 or visit
  • Stay Quit Coach App: an app specifically designed to help Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) quit smoking. It has been shown to double quit rates for Veterans with PTSD. Stay Quit Coach is available for free one the Apple iTunes store. Learn more at 
  • With the support of Veterans, staff and the community, Charleston VAMC welcomes a smoke-free campus at the medical center and each of its outpatient clinics. This change is an extension of the VA’s commitment to provide the highest-quality health care for Veterans in an environment that encourages a quality, healthy lifestyle.
  • Occupational health offers free tobacco treatment services for employees who are interested in quitting smoking. VA employees have access to nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum and lozenges. Employee wellness also provides support to employees by helping them develop a personal quit plan, establish support to quit smoking, clarify reasons to quit, and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Employees who are interested in quitting can make an appointment with Occupational Health by calling 843-789-7300 or visiting room B164.
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