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.

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