News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

June 9, 2011

FLASHPOINT: Combined resources will help Indiana in the fight against tobacco

Recently, Indiana joined the rest of the world in celebrating World No Tobacco Day. This global health observation was created to teach people about the dangers of tobacco use and highlight public health efforts in the fight against the tobacco epidemic. World No Tobacco Day is of particular importance to Hoosiers this year. Beginning July 1, 2011, two Indiana State Government agencies critical to protecting the health of Hoosiers will be combined: the Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Tobacco Prevention & Cessation (ITPC). 

Second in importance only to the 2007 increase in cigarette tax, the General Assembly’s move to put tobacco cessation within the State Health Department provides additional tools for Indiana to catch up with other states in the race to lower smoking rates and tobacco-related illnesses. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 23 percent of Indiana adults smoke cigarettes, ranking us 46th in adult smoking nationwide. Clearly, the well-known adverse health effects of tobacco usage continue to negatively impact the avoidable and reducible rates of Indiana diseases as well as increase health costs for both employers and employees. 

While we are not naive enough to think this one policy change will dramatically move that needle, we recognize the merit in this decision made by our elected officials. Combining our two agencies’ efforts will benefit Hoosiers by decreasing administrative redundancy and saving taxpayer dollars as an overwhelming majority of states have already successfully done.

Valuable ITPC programs, such as the Community and Minority Based Programs, the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, the Quit Now Indiana initiative, the Voice Youth Program and other smoking cessation and prevention programs will continue. Tobacco reduction and protection from secondhand smoke exposure will now be further integrated into many existing State health promotion programs, such as cancer prevention, oral health, asthma care, maternal/prenatal health, cardiovascular health, and minority, women’s, and children’s health.

Prior to the legislative action to locate Indiana’s tobacco cessation efforts into the State Health Department, there were concerns that Indiana’s battle against tobacco would be weakened. I would like to use this opportunity to assure Hoosiers that by having the largest state advocate for public health align its expertise and capabilities against tobacco use, smoking cessation efforts will only become stronger. Here are the important elements in Indiana’s battle against tobacco usage, starting in July 2011.

The seasoned leadership of the current ITPC Executive Director, Karla Sneegas, will continue as Ms. Sneegas will become the State Health Department’s first Assistant Commissioner of the newly formed Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Division. We look forward to utilizing her expertise and experience in the continued fight against tobacco and secondhand smoke-related illnesses.

The State budget bill recently passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Gov. Daniels requires 85 percent of the money appropriated for tobacco cessation to be distributed as grants to local and community programs. In April, 2011, the ITPC expert staff completed its internal grant review and approval for the next two-year cycle of funding. The State Health Department fully accepts the ITPC’s decisions and processes and no changes will occur in either grant awards or processes used.

Notably, there will be an increase in the amount of the total grant awards despite a decrease in funding appropriated by the General Assembly. We intend to continue to reinvest savings realized by this transfer and any other administrative efficiencies back into current cessation programming. We are also considering additional grant opportunities for new and innovative anti-smoking and cessation ideas.

Finally, we are creating a voluntary advisory board comprised of experts passionate about forwarding the mission and direction of tobacco cessation in Indiana. This board, in addition to national experts, will advise the State Health Department on strategy and policy issues concerning the most current and available information regarding anti-smoking and cessation research and best practices.

Indiana’s tobacco cessation efforts should not be isolated or secular, instead the reduction of both its usage and adverse effects are a universal public health and private sector battle. The mission of the Indiana State Department of Health is to support Indiana’s economic prosperity and quality of life by promoting, protecting and providing for the health of Hoosiers in their communities.

Blending the respected efforts of ITPC with the broad expertise and capabilities of the State Health Department provides advocates for tobacco cessation with a stronger partner in the fight against tobacco-use in Indiana.

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