News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 5, 2014

EDITORIAL: Taking on tobacco

State not doing enough to spread health message

The Tribune-Star

---- — Among the most common resolutions people make to begin a new year is to quit smoking. Because tobacco is an addiction, it’s among the most difficult resolutions to keep. Stopping is not easy. In fact, the best way to attack tobacco addiction is not to start in the first place.

While use of tobacco products is at historic lows, disease and death related to tobacco use is still a major health problem in America. In Indiana, where tobacco use and unhealthy lifestyles are a major public health concern, a recent report by a coalition of public health organizations claims Indiana is turning “a blind eye to what is an obvious problem in this state.” So says Jon Macy, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Indiana University, in an article published recently in the Herald-Times of Bloomington.

Macy went on to make this disturbing comment to the newspaper: “Indiana has become a state where the tobacco companies test-market their new products, because we don’t spend any money to counter that marketing. We’ve become a guinea pig state. Tobacco companies see our teens and young adults as easy targets, because we don’t spend money on prevention messages.”

According to the report cited, Indiana collects $536.9 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, yet spends only $5.8 million a year in funding prevention and cessation programs. That ranks it 31st in the nation.

Meanwhile, the report states that tobacco companies spend $271.7 million a year marketing their products in Indiana.

Our state needs to do better.

Fortunately, help is coming from other places. According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration will soon begin using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation’s at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking. The $115-million campaign is aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.

Also this week, the drugstore chain that owns CVS pharmacies nationwide announced it will cease selling tobacco products by Oct. 1. It’s impossible to know what effect — if any — the policy will have on overall tobacco consumption, but it is a compelling message nonetheless. And if enough retail outlets follow suit, buying tobacco products will become less convenient for consumers.

We would hope the state of Indiana takes note of the increased emphasis others are placing on tobacco cessation and prevention. Indiana can and should do more to support that cause.