Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Legislative Update

This session there are several important bills related to tobacco control being considered.

The first and probably most pressing is SB298, this bill covers a number of government consolidation issues including combining retirement services of ISTA with PERF. Also included within this bill is language to abolish the Indiana Tobacco Prevention Cessation Agency's (ITPC) Board on July 1, 2010, and transfers all assets, obligations, powers, duties, and appropriations into the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). This is not a new idea, one that has been considered before, but in 2007 Health Finance Commission summer study committee advised against this action. ITPC has done great work in Indiana to help reduce youth smoking rates and to educate adults about the impact of smoking and secondhand smoke. We know that to effectively reduce the number of smokers within a state you need a high cigarette tax, smoke free air laws, a fully funded cessation quitline and a fully funded tobacco prevention program; Indiana does not meet any of these requirements, hence why we have the second highest smoking rate in the nation. If ITPC is moved into ISDH it could prove to be potentially harmful to Indiana by creating a lag time in which tobacco prevention services could be provided to reducing of number of staff and dollars dedicated to helping Hoosiers quitting tobacco. Recently Indiana saw a 21% decline in the number of high school smokers between 2000-2008, we do not want to see more youth smoking by reducing the amount of tobacco prevention services in the state.

There are also a number of bills to make Indiana workplaces smoke free, the one that has been given a hearing and voted out of committee is HB1131 sponsored by Rep. Charlie Brown. Unfortunately yesterday HB1131 had a series of amendments added to it, namely to exempt bars and added preemption language which would prevent local communities from passing a stronger ordinance. After these exemptions were added Representative Brown decided to withdraw the bill before it was voted on rather than let it pass full of exemptions. At this time it is undetermined what the fate of HB1131 is or what will happen to the other smoke free air bills. Now truly is the time for Indianapolis to go totally smoke free on its own rather than wait for the state legislature to pass something because it very well will not happen this year. Everyday Indianapolis workers are negatively impacted by secondhand smoke, now is the time to provide every worker with a healthy smoke free environment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

House Committee Passes Smoke Free Bill

Today the House Public Policy Committee voted 7-5 to pass HB1131 out of committee. The bill now goes in front of the full House of Representatives for a vote, and then to the Senate if the House passes the measure. HB1131 would require all workplaces in Indiana to be smoke free with the exception of casinos, horse tracks and off-track betting parlors.

Here is an IBJ article summarizing today's events: http://www.ibj.com/panel-to-consider-smoking-ban-in-public-places/PARAMS/article/15865

What's in that Cigarette?

So what is in that cigarette? No one except the tobacco industry really seems to know. With the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of June 2009 the FDA now has the authority to find out what exactly everyone is smoking. It has been speculated, and in some cases even proven through lab tests, that cigarette makers include extra ingredients to enhance the impact of nicotine in a persons body by making them more addictive. We also do not know exactly how much nicotine is included in cigarettes and other tobacco products, studies have shown that the amount of nicotine has increased over time, further limiting ones chances of quitting. Hopefully we will finally know how harmful cigarettes really are after the FDA identifies all of their ingredients.

Here is an article on the FDA's new study: What's in a Cigarette? FDA to Study Ingredients - ABC News

Also as a side note, how depressing is it that the picture in this article was taken at the Red Key Tavern? Do we need more proof that we smoke too much than to be identified by the national news? There is a reason we have the 2nd highest smoking rate in the nation...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We Failed, Again...

Yesterday the American Lung Association released their State of Tobacco Report in which Indiana got a mostly failing grade for our tobacco prevention efforts.

We got an 'F' for Tobacco Control Prevention and Spending because Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) is only funded at $11,896,858, no where near the CDC recommended level of $78,800,000. This amount is even down from the previous years amount of $15,921,124.

We also got an 'F' for Smokefree Air because only a small number of places are covered by smoke free air laws, and an even smaller number of bars are smoke free. Increasingly we are being left behind by other states going smoke free, North Carolina just went smoke free at the new year and our neighboring state Michigan will go smoke free on May 1st.

Indiana got a 'D' for Cigarette Taxes, our tax is only at 99.5 cents, the national average is $1.36. In this current economy many states are looking to raise cigarette taxes as a way to supplement their state budgets, it is only a matter of time before the national average will go up again further leaving us behind.

Lastly we got a 'C' for Tobacco Cessation Coverage, because we do have a statewide cessation quitline and cessation services are covered within Medicaid and state employee insurance programs. Unfortunately cessation is not mandated within private insurance and the quitline is not fully funded to allow every individual who needs to quit smoking the proper help needed.

Indiana still has a long way to go before we can receive a passing grade, increasingly we are being left behind by other states, which is why we are now number 2 in the nation for adult smokers. Of the 10 states with the highest smoking rates in the nation, none of them have a smoke free air law.

We can reverse this cycle of loosing our loved ones to the effects of tobacco by fully funding ITPC, increasing our cigarette tax, passing a strong statewide smoke free air law and by fully funding the state quitline. Hopefully these goals will be met in the near future before another child picks up a daily tobacco habit.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Community Affairs Committee To Hear Proposal 371 On April 14th

At the December 30th meeting of the Community Affairs Committee, councillors voted to hold a public hearing on Proposal 371 at their April 14th meeting at 5:30 p.m. This is great news for us smoke free air advocates, it means that the proposal is not dead and instead is alive and well and just needed sometime to be regrouped.

Please mark your calendars for this very important date, we will need all supporters to again come forward in support of making Indy a healthier and smoke free place to live, work and play.

It is also not too late to contact your councillor in support of this issue; also don't forget the four at-large councillors when you send your email or make a call.

2010 is our year to go totally smoke free!