Pharos-Tribune

Editorials

December 17, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Challenges continue for kids

We must not look away when it comes to the physical and mental health of our kids.

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death, annually claiming 9,700 lives in Indiana and costing the state $2.1 billion, or more, in health care bills.

Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, Indiana ranks 31st in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a report shared with us by Greg Johnson of Tobacco-Free Northeast Indiana

Indiana this year will collect $536.9 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.1 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. Only one penny of every dollar in tobacco revenue is used to fight tobacco use — an overall funding cut of 64 percent since 2008.

Tobacco companies spend $271.7 million a year to market their products in Indiana — 47 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled “A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Indiana tobacco prevention programs helped reduce smoking among high school students by more than one-third since 2001, to 18.1 percent of students in 2011. But in recent years funding for the program has been diverted.

Indiana’s cigarette tax of 99.5 cents per pack ranks 32nd in the nation and is below the national average of $1.53 per pack.

Tobacco prevention and cessation programs reduce smoking and save lives and money. Florida’s well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention program reduced its high school smoking rate to just 8.6 percent in 2013, far below the national rate. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

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