Senate bill would snuff out Indiana's smoking-cessation agency

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Legislation pending in the Indiana Senate abolishes the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency and moves its function into the Indiana State Department of Health.

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, is the author of Senate Bill 298, which carries the proposal. Kenley thinks the change could save the state up to $1.1 million annually. But anti-tobacco advocates worry it could seriously diminish Indiana’s efforts to curb Hoosiers’ notorious smoking and chewing-tobacco habits.

“The program we have now has been nationally recognized,” said Tim Filler, chairman of the advocacy group Campaign for a Tobacco-Free Indiana. “If it’s not broken, why do we need to fix it?”

Legislators formed the anti-tobacco agency a decade ago. They designed it to utilize Indiana’s portion of the 1998 national Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry. The $200 billion settlement closed separate lawsuits from 46 states against major tobacco manufacturers over smoking-related health problems.

The anti-tobacco agency has a staff of 14. Its 20-member board consists of physicians, public health administrators, representatives of health advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association, the Indiana State Medical Association, and state officials including State Health Commissioner Judith Monroe, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Anne Murphy.

Kenley’s bill would eliminate the agency board. Its powers and duties would be transferred to the executive board of the health department.

Agency Executive Director Karla Sneegas was in transit via airplane from a health seminar in North Dakota on Friday morning when IBJ attempted to contact her for comment. An agency spokesman declined to comment for this story, saying it doesn’t offer opinions on pending legislation.

According to its most recent annual report, which covered the fiscal year concluded June 30, 2009, the agency had total receipts of $31.8 million and total disbursements of $20.1 million. But the vast majority of spending underwrote tobacco-cessation programs, such as local educational outreach programs in schools, the WhiteLies advertising campaign and a telephone hotline to assist people who want to quit smoking.

Kenley said his proposal wouldn’t change any of that activity, which the health department would continue. Instead, it aims to shave expenses from the $1.1 million Indiana spends annually on the agency's administrative budget, of which $988,000 goes to salary and fringe benefits for its staff.

The idea to consolidate the agency into the health department originated in the governor’s office, Kenley said, but he added that he was happy to carry the concept in the Statehouse.

“The intent is not to reduce the program at all,” Kenley said. “When you’re in times like we are, the governor and his people are looking for every opportunity to consolidate but not reduce services. They feel like there’s an opportunity to do that.”

But Filler has a host of concerns about the proposal. Even in the best-case scenario, he said, there would be a lull in tobacco-prevention efforts while the health department absorbed the agency.

Filler’s bigger concern is that the only way to achieve cost savings would be to cut some or all of the agency’s 14 employees.

“Tobacco cessation would be somebody’s second job. That has the potential for disaster," Filler said. “We want to encourage policymakers to sustain the structure they have, and increase investments to increase its effort and outreach.”

According to the agency’s annual report, Indiana already spends far less than the $78.8 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annually to reduce tobacco use. According to the CDC, larger investments in comprehensive tobacco-control programs yield greater reductions in smoking, especially when they’re sustained over time. The long-term result, the report said, is fewer premature tobacco-related deaths.

The annual report also charts the state’s declining smoking rates. For example, it notes that in 2000, 31.6 percent of high school students smoked. By 2008, that figure had dropped to 18.3 percent. According to Campaign for a Tobacco-Free Indiana, the state’s overall cigarette consumption has fallen too, from 599 million packs in 2004 to 471 million in 2009.

Kenley noted that agency staff work hard, but that it’s difficult to measure whether their efforts are directly responsible for the tobacco-use declines. Filler, on the other hand, sees a direct correlation.

“It would be penny-wise and pound foolish to cut the [agency] staff now doing work in the community,” Filler said. “We get dividends in the future for the work they continue to do.”


  • Riding Harleys
    It's strange how the only time you'll see a post from HarleyRider (of any number) is only when there's smoking (or anti-smoking). Google him and you'll find (nearly) the same text at dozens of sites. Either a one man (or small cluster of) crusade.

    I'm not faulting him. I'm just amused.

    At least his message has improved. It used to be a single case where someone said there was no connection betwixt smoking & cancer, as though that was an end-all, be-all situation disproving any other studies.

    Logic exists which proves all horses are the same color or that -1=1, but that doesn't make it correct.

    In terms of money dissuading someone from smoking via money, who says $4/gallon causes people to do as little driving as possible? This number was plucked out of thin air. Even if it were $10/gallon, people would throw fits, but they'd pay it because they need it.

    Suppose cigarettes were $10/carton, let alone $10/pack. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are addicted to an unhealthy, let alone disgusting activity, but I'm willing to wager many, if not most, smokers would be spending as much time outside of work as they do at work, to break their addiction; i.e., a 2nd full-time job.

    In Canada, many, many moons ago, they jacked the price of cigarettes and finally caught someone with a unique method of smuggling them across the border: two farmers' farms abutted with the countries' border running between them. There was a gap in the fence and as the American farmer was working his field, he would drive through the gap, drop the cigarettes, then return, without breaking the pattern. You can imagine how much tobacco was dropped off during the time he worked both fields.

    One question which does come up in interviews: Do you smoke?

    I don't think anyone (including me) be subjected to such a filthy smell when they come in from a cigarette break. I don't want to see the premiums for my employees to increase, just because someone has to check the little box on their insurance form:

    [__] Do you smoke?
  • It's not tax payer dollars
    Mass Transit,
    The taxpayers of this state are NOT paying for this program. The Master Settlement Agreement is. And ITPC and its board DOES advocate for higher cigarette taxes, in which they were successful in raising a few years ago. So again, no tax dollars, so your point is moot. Educate yourself about the program before you start slamming it. And furthermore, if you knew anything about tobacco and tax dollars, you would know that WE (the taxpayers) are shelling out millions every year (more than what we collect in taxes) as smokers are a serious burden to our economy and health care system.
  • It's totally not the same...
    Look at this pointless program we have for women and children in abusive relationships! These women just keep GOING BACK to their abusive spouses! They are adults and should KNOW BETTER than to be living in a situation like that! It's so pointless to have prevention programs like these, since they OBVIOUSLY don't work! Let's stop wasting our precious tax dollars!!!

    Please remember that nicotine is often regarded as the most addictive drug.

    Raising "sin" taxes will NOT affect a massive amount of people to stop smoking. Did any of us stop driving around when gas prices were $4/gallon? Of course not. Because it's easier to just keep driving and whine about the price. All this serves is to put those who already can't afford their addiction to go further into debt.

    There's nothing to help smokers quit until they want to quit. ITPC offers an out, they offer a helping hand - not a pressuring one.
  • We can't SHRINK government!
    No, let's not eliminate a $1 million expense, because that's almost nothing. Just like you and me giving up a can of soda pop a year. Oh, and as Aida claims, it's a "great state agency." Can't ever shrink government, can we?

    Smokers know the risks and continue to smoke in spite of the hectoring and penalties and costs. It is an adult decision they choose to make. The increased costs they pay in taxes and insurance premiums more than pay for their medical costs. But the anti-smoking jihad has never really been about health. It's about controlling behavior that the majority finds objectionable. "Cigs make my clothes smell bad" isn't nearly as compelling as "Secondhand smoke KILLS!" Ah, but then there's the wrinkle that the state is more addicted to the income from tobacco taxes than smokers are to their cigs.

    The dirtiest secret of all that the FDA, ASH and the smoking cessation drug companies don't want anyone to be told is that you are either genetically predisposed to cancer, or you aren't. DNA is the overwhelming controller of what you die of, at least as regards to cancer cells in your body. That's why there are 104 year old women in Paris who still smoke three packs a day, versus 34 year olds who never smoked who drop dead of lung cancer. And all of the anti-smoking laws in the world won't change that. Like the global warming scandal, the money is in the driver's seat on this issue, not real science.
  • tobacco taxes vs assumed healthcare costs
    Expenses for Medical Care for smoking related disease is approximately 35 billion per year.

    duh! the states and federal govmnt collect over 150 billion a year just in tobacco tax revenue not counting sales tax revenues.....smokers pay for their own care silly girl..........
  • second hand smoke is a joke
    Since 1981 there have been 148 reported studies on ETS, involving spouses, children and workplace exposure. 124 of these studies showed no significant causal relationship between second hand smoke and lung cancer. Of the 24 which showed some risk, only two had a Relative Risk Factor over 3.0 and none higher. What does this mean. To put it in perspective, Robert Temple, director of drug evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration said "My basic rule is if the relative risk isn't at least 3 or 4, forget it." The National Cancer Institute states "Relative risks of less than 2 are considered small and are usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to mere chance, statistical bias, or the effect of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident." Dr. Kabat, IAQC epidemiologist states "An association is generally considered weak if the relative risk is under 3.0 and particularly when it is under 2.0, as is the case in the relationship of ETS and lung cancer. Therefore, you can see any concern of second hand smoke causing lung cancer is highly questionable." Note that the Relative Risk (RR) of lung cancer for persons drinking whole milk is 2.14 and all cancers from chlorinated water ranked at 1.25. These are higher risks than the average ETS risk. If we believe second hand smoke to be a danger for lung cancer then we should also never drink milk or chlorinated water.
  • Great state agency
    ITPC saves lives, saves money and protects families and workers. ITPC has significantly decreased youth smoking and it has one of the model tobacco programs in the nation.
    ITPC Board is composed of volunteers and esperts in tobacco issues.
    Expenses for Medical Care for smoking related disease is approximately 35 billion per year.
    It is foolish to abolish and agency that is saving lives and dollars especially when the funds come from the tobacco industry payments.
    Why don't people try using Crown7 Electric cigarettes? Drop all the other cessation products and get something that actually works!
  • Faulty logic
    Taxpayer money doesn't fund the vast majority of ITPC and its programs -- the 1998 tobacco settlement does. Trimming $1 million out of a STATEWIDE budget is like buying one less can of soda a year. Will it really make a difference?

    Obviously, if we all know the dangers of smoking and a ton of people still smoke, well, then, your argument doesn't hold up. The message must not be getting through, hence the usefulness of an agency like ITPC.
    • Shut it down
      It 's about time these tax wasters were shut down. The anti-smoking industry is every bit as well-heeled as the tobacco companies, except THEIR money comes from the taxpayers. Close the doors on these nannies and busybodies who feed ceaselessly at the public trough.
    • about time
      Everyone knows the dangers of smoking, and we are bombarded on television with national "quit now" campaigns. Do we really need an Indiana agency solely to curb tobacco use? No, and it is amazing that the taxpayers of this state ever allowed such a thing to exist and waste our tax dollars. If you want to curb smoking, increase cigarette taxes. While such "sin taxes" carry a certain stigma, they would accomplish the goal of reducing Hoosier smoking without wasting taxpayer dollars on a program whose main goal is pointing out the obvious danger of smoking that we all know about and understand.

      Kudos to the Indiana legislature for cutting this useless agency! I look forward to more SMART cutbacks, so we can focus our existing tax dollars on much needed education and light rail lines that we should be focusing our tax money on.

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