News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

April 28, 2011

FLASHPOINT: Tobacco prevention under assault in Indiana

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana Senate budget’s assault on state tobacco prevention and cessation efforts will cost Hoosier lives and dollars.

The Indiana Senate majority budget was released April 19 with only days left in this legislative session. The budget severely slashes funding for tobacco prevention efforts by more than 50 percent from the previous budget’s appropriation and it abolishes Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) Agency — a state agency, which according to the most recent data, has brought Indiana to historic new lows in adult tobacco smoking rates.

According to health advocates, despite the 10-year success of ITPC and regardless of the fact that Indiana suffers over $2 billion in smoking-caused health care costs — including $487 million annually in Medicaid costs — and the loss of around 10,000 Hoosiers every year, the Indiana Senate’s proposed decimation of Indiana’s tobacco control efforts can only be viewed as an all-out assault on tobacco prevention efforts in Indiana.

“This budget proposal not only bleeds dry state tobacco prevention efforts by severely slashing funding for state tobacco prevention and cessation efforts by more than 50 percent, it also seeks to kill off the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation agency, ITPC, that has succeeded in reducing adult smoking to the lowest rate ever in recorded in the state, 23.1 percent, and has cut youth smoking by 42 percent.

“This backward, backroom deal proposed at the 11th hour in the legislative process with no public hearing … on these proposals will absolutely cost Hoosier lives and dollars,” said Tim Filler of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“It appears the Senate committee’s budget wants to pull the rug out from under Hoosier kids, families, employers and community partners who depend on the work ITPC does to help people quit smoking, prevent young people from starting to smoke and eliminating tobacco-caused health disparities.”

At the same time the Senate is dismembering tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives, Indiana is subjected to over $425 million of tobacco marketing expenditures and is a test bed for new tobacco products — the most recent being Camel Orbs, a dissolvable tobacco tablet closely resembling Tic Tac breath mints. Camel Orbs were test-marketed during this past year in only two other cities in the United States — Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio.

The Senate’s last-minute actions have been accomplished behind the scenes and without the opportunity for public debate. This proposed cut is hidden deep on page 101 of the 263-page budget bill, which is House Bill 1001.

Health advocates point out that the cuts to tobacco prevention also far exceed the average cuts to other agencies for the second consecutive budget and demonstrate a systemic dismantling of the program. 

Filler says, “Neither the Senate’s drastic budget cut nor the proposal to abolish ITPC were given a public hearing in the Indiana General Assembly throughout the entire legislative session. Dropping this budget with just ten days left of session and passing it out of committee immediately ensured that there was no opportunity for Hoosiers’ voices to be heard in regard to this catastrophic assault on Hoosier health. Why would the Indiana Senate committee leadership want to set back a decade of tobacco control progress, drive up smoking-related health care costs and increase the toll tobacco takes on Hoosier health? Who wins in that scenario? The winners aren’t the people of Indiana with this budget proposal, that’s for sure.”

A Ball State University study showed that every pack of cigarettes sold in Indiana ends up costing Indiana tax payers $7.57 in smoking-related expenditures, far more than the 99.5 cents per pack Indiana receives in revenues from cigarette taxes.

The long-term view of tobacco prevention seems to be the missing piece. State Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, told the Associated Press, “We have a hard time in this state investing money now for its long-term gains. It’s going to save us money in the long run, but we’re not willing to make that investment now.”

Filler concluded: “This bill poses a grave threat to the public’s health. We’re hoping the groundswell of grassroots supporters of tobacco prevention throughout Indiana continue to voice their strong opposition to this full-scale assault on Hoosier health. We need the majority of legislators and Gov. Daniels to support keeping ITPC in its present form and we also need the funding for ITPC to be passed at $9.23 million per year as it was originally stated by the governor in his January budget proposal.”

It is important for Hoosiers to understand that Indiana’s tobacco prevention work through ITPC is not funded by Hoosier tax dollars. Indiana receives around $130 million dollars per year as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement between states and tobacco companies that settled state lawsuits against tobacco companies for decades of fraud, deception, targeting of kids and manipulation of product design to make tobacco products more addictive. The work of ITPC actually saves the people of Indiana money every day by reducing the number of Hoosiers who use tobacco products.

Let your voice be heard. Save this agency and help save Hoosier lives. Contact the governor and your Vigo County legislators today. You can reach Daniels’ office by calling (317) 232-4567. Vigo County state Reps. Dale Grubb (District 42) and Clyde Kersey (District 43) can be reached at (800) 382-9842. Reps. Jim Baird (District 44), Bruce Borders (District 45) and Bob Heaton (District 46) can be contacted by calling (800) 382-9841. Sens. Tim Skinner (District 38) and John Waterman (District 39) can be contacted at (800) 382-9467. Tell them to keep the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation agency as it currently stands and to support the governor’s recommended funding of ITPC at $9.23 million per year.

— Alia Hazel

Indiana Tobacco Prevention & Cessation

Program director

for Vigo County

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