It may not put a dent in the deficit, but here's a candidate for a little spending cut: The Department of Veterans Affairs might want to rethink its $47,526 contract - awarded less than a month ago - for a "cigarette smoking machine."
Just what is a cigarette smoking machine anyway, and why does it cost so much?
No, it is not a machine designed to assist smokers. A closer look at the contract specifications (you can see them all HERE ), gives a hint: The smoking machine includes "mouse exposure chambers."
We called the Department of Veterans Affairs and, sure enough, the machine is something used in research on the effects of smoking.
"The Smoking Machine you are referring to," emailed a VA contract specialist, "is a machine being utilized in one of our research labs."
We asked just what kind of smoking research the Department of Veterans Affairs is doing but the contract specialist refused to say. Here is our email exchange:
ABC News: "Can you tell me please what sort of research is being done with this machine?"
VA Contract Specialist: "No!"
Perhaps they want to be good and sure that smoking is bad for you.
It doesn't hurt to be sure, although it was nearly 50 years ago (January 11, 1964 to be exact) that the Surgeon General issued its groundbreaking report tying smoking to lung cancer.