Make your home page

Expert: Indiana’s proposed budget needs more on public health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana ranks 45th in the nation for funding public health, with $7.5 million in 2022 going toward tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

However, the heightened teen vaping epidemic has put public health at the forefront of budget talks. Still, experts tell I-Team 8, those proposals fall short of what is actually needed.

Katy Hilts, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, said, “We are not funding our tobacco-control program at the level that we should be doing. Eighty-five percent of youth, or I think around that amount, you know, report using flavored e cigarettes. So, that’s a big concern.” 

Republicans in the Indiana House went big on boosting public K-12 funding with $1.6 billion over the next two years in the proposed state budget bill, which could be ready for votes in April.

But for public health, they’re proposing an increasing of funding by $255 million, less than half the public health commission’s original recommendation. 

In January, I-Team 8 spoke to youths who came to Statehouse to lobby for combating the vaping crisis. One high school senior said in January that tobacco companies spent about $300 million in Indiana to market their products.

Hilts says Indiana has been trending in the right direction with a decrease of teen vaping in the last two years. Still, she says there is a long way to go. Data shows Indiana is 8th in the nation for highest smoking rates, but 32nd for prevention and cessation funding.

“I just think investing in these types of programs, investing in those efforts to address some of the underlying causes that are leading to use of these products and subsequent use of other types of products as well, are important in the long run,” Hilts said.