American Lung Association says Indiana lags in preventing tobacco usage

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The American Lung Association wants to see Indiana lawmakers do more to help Hoosiers quit smoking, or never start.

On Wednesday, it said Indiana has been stagnant over the last year in creating policies and funding to help address the issue, according to its annual State of Tobacco Control report.

The report grades federal and state policies in several categories. In Indiana, it said the state graded as follows:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Smokefree Air – Grade C
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F

“Nationwide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease, killing more than 11,000 Indiana residents each year,” said Monique French, director of tobacco control and advocacy for the Lung Association in Indiana.

“Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 23 percent of adults and 32 percent of high school students in Indiana use tobacco highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

The full report can be viewed here.

French said the state could make improvement to its report card next year if a pair of bills are passed.

The first is H.B. 1380 which would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. It’s a measure that five states have already passed. If the measure doesn’t become law, the state’s grade could still improve if cities and other municipalities raised the age at a more local level.

The bill would also raise the state tax on cigarettes by $1.50. French said the state’s tax right now is 99.5 cents and the national average is at $1.72.

Both are proven results, said French, to help people quit.

“This really helps reduce that,” she said. “It reduces the number of individuals impacted by tobacco use and their families, and it also reduces the amount of money we spend addressing these issues.”

The American Lung Association estimates the cost of health care due to tobacco product usage in Indiana totals $3 billion annually.

The other bill, H.B. 1381, would require to make all work environments smoke-free. Currently state laws ban smoking in most work settings, but they do not apply to some establishments, such as casinos and bars.

While Indiana received in F grade when it comes to funding programs, the American Lung Association did give the state a “thumbs up” for adding an additional $2.5 million to the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. The increase brings the total funding to $7.5 million for 2018.