Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 23, 2014

Will Hoosiers ever get it when it comes to smoking?

Goshen News

---- — Last month the American Lung Association released its “State of Tobacco Control 2014” report, and specifically called out Indiana for its poor statistics related to tobacco use. Fifty years since the United States Surgeon General first declared smoking a public health hazard, Indiana lags behind most states in smoking cessation.

Here in Indiana, the American Lung Association estimates the annual economic cost due to smoking to be $4.8 billion. The report also points out that Indiana’s adult smoking rate is 24 percent, the high school-aged smoking rate is 18.1 percent and the middle school-aged smoking rate is 4.4 percent. According to the report, there were more than 15,500 deaths in Indiana attributed to smoking, smoking-attributed lung cancer and smoking-attributed respiratory disease in 2013.

THE REPORT GRADED Indiana on Tobacco Prevention (F), Smoke-free air (C), Cigarette Tax (D) and Cessation Coverage (F).

“Indiana has the unfortunate distinction of failing to make progress in the fight against tobacco use in 2013, and protect citizens from tobacco-caused diseases like lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of both men and women in Indiana,” said Lindsay Grace, manager of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Indiana. “Meanwhile, ‘Big Tobacco’ continued to rob our health and wealth with clever new tactics to lure new youth smokers.”

The report further chastised Indiana for cutting state funding for its tobacco prevention and cessation program by 40 percent, but praised it for providing comprehensive coverage for all tobacco cessation medications and types of counseling to Medicaid enrollees.

While we agree that Indiana has been slow on the uptake regarding the discouragement of tobacco use, significant progress has been achieved in the past decade. Cities and counties took it upon themselves to legislate smoking bans in public restaurants. The state finally followed suit in July 2012, though exemptions still apply for casinos/gaming establishments and bars/taverns that do not employ persons younger than 18 and do not allow persons younger than 21 to enter.

BUT INDIANA ALSO spends just $7.7 million for state tobacco control programs when the Center for Disease Control recommends $78 million on such programs. We agree that Indiana needs to make a greater investment in tobacco/health education and smoking cessation initiatives. We also believe that individuals must take responsibility for themselves, especially families with small children in their homes and cars. It infuriates us any time we pull up next to a car and inside the adults are smoking and the children are belted in the backseat.

Talk to a pediatrician and they’re likely to tell you that many of their unhealthiest patients come from homes where the adults smoke in the house or car — otherwise preventable poor health situations. Those adults should be accountable for their actions.

So, like the American Lung Association’s report, we urge both elected officials and regular citizens in Indiana to renew a commitment to “eliminate tobacco-caused death and disease.” Seems more than logical to us.