Indiana will be the 12th state to allow residents who are attempting to quit smoking to purchase tobacco-cessation products without a prescription, starting Aug. 1.
The Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced a standing order on Monday what will allow Hoosiers to obtain certain medicines designed to help smokers quit without a prescription.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box signed the order at a press conference at Eskenazi Health Center on West 38th Street.
The goal is to make those products more affordable and accessible—and to reduce Indiana’s high smoking rate. More than 1.1 million adult Hoosiers smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In June, Indiana ranked 44th highest out of 50 states with a smoking rate of 21.8 percent. That’s up from 38th place a year earlier.
Health department officials say smoking has contributed to making Indiana one of the worst states for infant and mother mortality. The state has the seventh highest infant mortality rate and third highest maternal mortality rate in the nation.
“Quitting smoking is extremely difficult,” Box said. “It takes some people years to get to the point that they’re ready to quit. We want to remove as many barriers as possible so that when the right time comes, there are no barriers to their getting help.”
The state health department estimates that almost 25% of pregnant women in Indiana on Medicaid and 13% of pregnant women overall smoke during pregnancy—the most common but also most preventable cause of infant mortality in Indiana.
The order was directed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has faced pressure to implement policies to improve the smoking rate in Indiana.
“One of the best things we can do to improve infant mortality is to make it easier to quit smoking and stay quit,” said Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
Walthall also announced that Indiana Medicaid will reimburse health care providers for offering counseling to expectant mothers seeking to quit tobacco use because some tobacco-cessation medications might not be safe for pregnant mothers.
Indiana Medicaid also will eliminate copayments for cessation products deemed safe for pregnant women and mothers up to one year postpartum.
“If you approach people about changing their health behaviors without judgement, but instead with true interest in their health and the ability to accept whatever stage of readiness they might be in, you will find people who are ready at that critical moment to make a move,” Walthall said.