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Indiana closer to eliminating anti-smoking agency

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New state figures show that Indiana's adult smoking rate has dropped to its lowest level in at least a decade at the same time as legislators are considering a proposal that would eliminate the state's anti-smoking agency.

The plan approved by the Republican-controlled Senate would transfer the duties of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation board to the State Department of Health. The legislation was originally authored by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville.

State Budget Director Chris Ruhl has told legislators that abolishing the agency could save between $1.1 million and $1.5 million in overhead and administration. Ruhl said smoking is the only health issue with its own state agency and oversight—and he questioned the board's effectiveness in cutting smoking rates.

"If we are making progress it's very slow, particularly given how much money is being spent," Ruhl said.

The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reported that Indiana's adult smoking rate for 2009 dropped to 23.1 percent—down from 26.9 percent when the board was created in 2000.

It is preliminary data sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to states for review, but the rate could end up being the state's final number, said Jennifer Dunlap, spokeswoman for the State Department of Health.

The Senate voted 32-18 last month for a bill that included eliminating the anti-tobacco board. The Democrat-led House hasn't acted on the legislation as the General Assembly faces a Sunday night deadline to adjourn.

Kevin O'Flaherty, Indiana's director of advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that funding levels dropped when similar stand-alone agencies were eliminated in Ohio and Mississippi.

"It was a power grab and a money grab in those states," he said. "The question is whether Indiana's efforts would suffer over time due to the switch. There are no parameters in the bill. It just abolishes the board and folds the assets and responsibilities in the state department of health."

State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, who is leaving to take a position with the federal Centers for Disease Control, said the department could run a tobacco prevention program with fewer employees than the separate agency, but she cautioned against an "erosion of funding."

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  • Kenley not truthful
    Senator Kenley's statements about the Indiana State Dept. of Health are completely and utterly FALSE!

    Since its inception in 2001, the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation agency -- thanks to its expert staff and its community-based coalitions -- have helped lower the adult smoking rate to an all time low (a fact that Dr. Judy Monroe and state officials covered up) and youth smoking is down 58 percent among middle school students and 42 percent among those in high school.

    Kenley's latest statements clearly show he knows as much about public health than he does about public K-12 education, which is nothing.

    His "arrogance" that some would confuse as "leadership" is undermining the health and well-being of thousands of Hoosiers and putting our kids at risk.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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