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May 16, 2013

NEWS AND TRIBUNE LETTERS — For May 16

Tobacco prevention advocates chide legislature

 

More than 1,500 Hoosier children just received an early death sentence from the Indiana Legislature. By slashing the state budget for tobacco prevention and cessation by 38 percent, our lawmakers told us that the health and future of our children isn’t important.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the loss of $3 million in funding will result in an additional 4,450 Hoosier children growing up to be addicted adult smokers. More than 1,500 of those will die prematurely due to smoking related illnesses.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In 1998, the federal government ordered tobacco companies to pay states billions of dollars for tobacco prevention as part of the Master Settlement Agreement. That agreement is still in effect, and Indiana will reap more than $120 million from that agreement this year alone.

Somehow the politicians have justified skimming $115 million of that money to use for other purposes and allotted a paltry $5 million for tobacco prevention and cessation.

Hard decisions must now be made across the state by those who are helping people quit tobacco and reaching out to our kids to prevent their addiction. Can the free Indiana Quit Line continue to offer its full array of services while there is record demand? Which kids will hear about the dangers of tobacco addiction and which kids won’t?

Sadly, the threat to Hoosier children isn’t the only short-sighted outcome of this budget cut. Studies consistently show that states that aggressively fund tobacco prevention and cessation save money on health care costs.

In fact, California saved $56 in health care costs for every dollar it invested in tobacco prevention and cessation.

By cutting $3 million from the TPC budget, the state will incur an extra $77.8 million in future health care costs, including $12.7 million in Medicaid costs. That’s not a win-win situation.

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