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Indiana's anti-tobacco agency's first decade mixed

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Indiana's top anti-tobacco agency has reached its 10th birthday with much to celebrate: Fewer people are smoking, more communities and employers are going smoke-free and the agency has earned a national reputation for results.

But Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation officials acknowledge they still have work to do in a state that in 2008 had the nation's highest smoking rate and still has more than 1 million smokers whose tobacco use costs Medicaid nearly $500 million each year and leads to nearly 10,000 Indiana deaths.

ITPC, created in 2001 with some of the $4.5 billion Indiana received from the tobacco industry's 1998 settlement with state attorneys general, won praise early on from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being among the few state agencies that had the minimum amount of funding the CDC said was needed to effectively fight tobacco use. That funding, as high as $32.8 million in 2003, fell to $10.8 million just a year later. It remains at that level.

Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington and a member of the State Budget Committee, said ITPC receives less state money because the millions of dollars of additional funding it formerly received were "low hanging fruit" when budget writers were looking for programs to cut.

"We have a hard time in this state investing money now for its long-term gains," Welch said. "It's going to save us money in the long run, but we're not willing to make that investment now."

Karla Sneegas, ITPC's executive director since its inception, said the agency built a statewide "infrastructure" for tobacco prevention and cessation in its early years and is able now to make "longer sustaining changes that don't require as much in terms of per-capita funding."

Building that infrastructure began with getting Indiana's schools to go smoke-free, said Sneegas, a former teacher in Huntingburg. Now 70 percent of Indiana school campuses are smoke-free, compared with 28 percent a decade ago. More than 2,000 community organizations statewide are working to curb tobacco use, and ITPC says per-capita cigarette use has declined by 40 percent over 10 years.

And though lawmakers have resisted calls for a statewide ban on smoking in public places, more than 30 communities — including Fort Wayne, Bloomington and Elkhart — have passed smoke-free air ordinances, and more than 300 employers have gone smoke-free network in just the past year.

Welch wrote a letter for an ITPC time capsule that will be opened in 10 years in which she said she hoped Indiana would be a true clean air state in 2021 and that she as a cancer nurse would need to worry about her job security.

The time capsule filled with letters, tobacco products, anti-tobacco ads and other mementoes will be housed at the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center, which serves 125,000 students each year, many for courses teaching the effects of tobacco use and other health topics.

Julian Peebles, the center's president, said government agencies receive a lot of criticism these days, but ITPC is an exception.

"Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation is a government agency that works," Peebles said.

Sneegas said ITPC's goals for the next 10 years include eradicating smoking among all pregnant women — about one in five still do — and making nearly all homes and workplaces in Indiana smoke free.

To do so, her group will need to win over people like Steve Stailey of Indianapolis, who smoked a cigarette as he walked his bike toward a bus stop outside the Statehouse Thursday. He said he's smoked for 25 years.

"I have no desire to quit," Stailey said, noting he takes narcotic painkillers every day for a bad back, "and that's probably hard on my liver. ... I'm already 51, you know, so I think I'm going to make it."

Other smokers feel differently. Sneegas said she stopped recently at a grocery store in the southern Indiana town of Orleans, only to overhear a middle-aged man in front of her ask for a pack of cigarettes. She said he told the clerk, "I really don't want to buy these. I try to quit, but I got into the weekend and I'm so stressed out, and I just can't make it, I've got to have a pack of cigarettes."

Sneegas introduced herself and gave him a piece of paper on which she had written 1-800-QuitNow (1-800-784-8669), the state's helpline for tobacco users who want to break the habit.

"We have to continue to help those who need to quit," she said.

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  • Free from nicotine addiction
    I smoked for 25 years and was addicted to nicotine. As with any addict, the more my habit was accommodated, the more I indulged. And, I didn't care how it affected anyone else, even my own loved ones. When smoking stopped being allowed everywhere, I had to work harder at feeding my habit. One day, it was -3 below zero and I had to go outside to smoke. I stood there puffing as cars whizzed by and it dawned on me how foolish this was and what a waste of time and I wondered was there any good to it. Even alcohol has medicinal purposes, but smoking, nada. I was enslaved by this addiction. I didn't like that. I quit. It took some effort, but I did it. Thanks to those who made it so hard for me to keep smoking, I was finally able to break free from nicotine addiction. As long as addicts are enabled, they will feed the addiction. Please keep passing laws and providing funding to help them break free and to protect others.
  • Playing "Let's Pretend"
    The anonymous Jill wrote that ITPC operates "WITHOUT the benefit of tax dollars."

    Really Jill? Then how come the ITPC website itself says, "Funding to ITPC comes from Indiana's portion of the 1998 Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement." ?

    Do you want to play the children's game of "Let's Pretend" and pretend that the MTSA fee that smokers are forced to pay on every pack of cigarettes they buy isn't a tax? Even when they have to pay it on cigarettes manufactured by companies that had nothing at all to do with that agreement? Do you want to pretend that it's the "tobacco companies" that pay it even though the tobacco companies were explicitly forced to pass it directly onto the heads of smokers rather than pay it from their shareholders or non-tobacco businesses? Do you want to pretend that a smoker could walk into a store, buy a pack of cigarettes, leave 50 cents less than the posted price because that 50 cents isn't really a tax on the smoker and then peacefully walk out?

    Or would you be willing to admit that Let's Pretend is a children's game that you should have outgrown years ago and just admit that the smokers are paying a tax to support the ITPCs activities by paid employees?

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
  • No tax payer $$ used
    To Frumious and others of a similar mindset, ITPC accomplished its successes in helping people quit smoking and creating a healthier state for our children WITHOUT the benefit of tax dollars. Check the state budgets - no tax dollars are or have ever been used for ITPC's work. Additionally, their progress means we'll pay less for others' Medicaid and uninsured tobacco-related health problems.
    • Smoking causes cancer. No question.
      You have to be woefully uneducated to not understand that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco industry conceded that years ago. THEY EVEN PUT IT ON THE SIDE OF THE BOX.

      It just goes to show that some people will always resist change and hold the rest of the world back. Cigarette smoke causes cancer and emphysema, is low class, and smells like crap. We need to shun smoking by creating disincentives such as higher tobacco taxes, bans in public places, and state healthcare eligibility restrictions for high risk people who continue to smoke.

      This has nothing to do with the big bad government intruding on your rights, it has to do with the government standing up for everyone else's health. It's about moving forward and taking responsibility for our future as a city, and as a state.

      BTW: The state has the right to ban smoking. The state has much more power than the federal government to do what it wants to within it's borders. Further, smoking is NOT a right, it is a privilege. There is no express written law, common law, or any document with legal weight that creates a "right to smoke". You can because the government allows it. If you don't believe me show me a case, a law, or a constitution that gives a right to smoke.
    • I am more important then your kids
      Dont care about your kids! If I want to smoke, too bad. You have no right to dictate what I do. If you dont like it, move to another state or stay away from where I smoke, there is enough air for everyone
    • anti-smoking
      The non-smoking public should stop going to smoking establishments and they wouldn"t have to worry about it. The non-smoking politians and reverend mitch,bosma,ballard,straub should retire.
    • just go
      Don't leave mad just go away,Leave smoking to those who smoke. You do know it's legal Right???
    • No the Government owns us
      Lady what planet did you come from. If you want your children to grow up in a safe place, You NEED to Learn the Facts.
      1. the government is good at covering up things they don't want you to know about, by spreading crap about things they don't like. Smoking. There are more Drugs,there are so many that have more Side effects than what your trying to get rid of. They cause more deaths than any cigarette ever has done.
      2. Booz, has caused more deaths than any cigarettes, Liver failure, accidents, and yes even said cancer! Are they banning it? No they want to sell it on sundays now.
      3. Have you ever wondered WHY the kids today are so much Bigger? Could it be because they are feeding the animals we eat, Harmones. A Growth formula, well so but it soaks into the animals body and stays there. You eat it. And that's Healthy? You want healthy, Cry about the REAL PROBLEMS that are going on. Cigarettes is NOT one of them, they are just what is called a Scape goat(to hide the Real Truth).
    • Excuse me!
      "Since 1997, the federal government has received almost $77 billion in federal excise taxes." Tired of paying for US?? We are tired of paying for YOU!
    • anti-tobacco
      ma1948....I agree with you COMPLETELY!!!
      There has always been the crap spieled out to the masses about smoking and cancer. There has NEVER been 1 ounce of verifiable facts put out about how or why. It's just a game of "OH, they smoked so that caused the cancer."
    • anti-tobacco
      Show the proof that smoking causes cancer and second hand smoke also. What causes breast cancer,rectal cancer,prostrate cancer.Does smoking cause these cancers-----maybe all of these are because we are born with cancer genes, and no one knows what sets them off. It was discovered by a scientist years ago. I"ve known people that have never smoked and died of LUNG CANCER, find something else to research, maybe move to another state or planet.
    • anti-tobacco
      people having been smoking longer than lilly"s has been making medicine,or other companies. how many people die each year from antibiotics and pain killers, that the FDA has approved? if it wasn"t for the taxes on tobacco 99.5cents per pack, you wouldn"t have a job, would you? so go beat your drum somewhere else.
    • Tobbaco companies own you! Fight back, if not for you, for your children!
      Lets stop all the nonsense. Ban smoking state wide and increase the taxes ten fold. We need to start taking our future seriously and move Indiana forward. I am sick of dealing with/paying for poor people's cancer!

      My children deserve better. It is going to happen sometime, there is no stopping it. Lets get this show on the road!
      • Awwww.
        Whatta shame. Let's see. Taking tax money paid out by smokers to form an agency that annoys. pesters and treats them like either deranged addicts or murderous child molesters. Just one more self-justified bloodsucking agency on the government teat. Smokers have been successfully demonized and made social pariahs. If they continue to smoke despite the drumbeat against them, it simply means they enjoy smoking more than being in the company of nannies, busybodies and health police. Please close.
      • Not Needed
        Please just go away! As a non-smoker, the last thing we need are draconian laws! There is NO clear evidence that 2nd hand smoke is harmful! NONE!

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