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Report: Indiana flunking in tobacco prevention

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Indiana’s doing pretty poorly when it comes to tobacco control.

The state has three F’s and one C in the recent grading scale.

F in tobacco taxes, tobacco prevention and control, access to cessation programs, and C for smoke-free air.

Those are the grades for Indiana in the 2015 State of Tobacco Control report.

But why is Indiana flunking?

“A lot of times they relate that to funding. The CDC has recommendations for comprehensive tobacco control efforts for each state. What they believe needs to be spent in order to stay on top of it and continue making progress,” said Libby Ray, Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation coordinator.

Indiana’s funding for that effort has decreased in recent years. It went from close to $10 million a year to half that.

“How that translates into local efforts. We used to have coordinators like myself in all 92 counties in Indiana. Now, it’s less than half of that. We have coordinators in somewhere between 40 and 45 counties in the state.”

So a lot of those counties can’t keep up those sustained efforts to reduce tobacco use.

“I think that sometimes when we begin to see progress in tobacco control that we see use rates going down there’s a sense that oh, that’s not as big of an issue as it used to be. The reality is we need to keep doing what we’re doing in order to continue making progress,” said Ray.

Now, Ray says we’re not doing as poorly in the county as the state is.

Their efforts are steady, keeping up with education in schools and programs to help smokers quit, sometimes it’s not enough. Local coordinators need that state support.

“Local efforts and statewide efforts really work hand to help reduce tobacco use rates,” said Ray.

Ray thinks our lackluster performance in smoke-free air is because we don’t have a comprehensive state-wide policy.

There are exemptions for casinos and bars in certain areas.

Illinois did just as badly in most standings, except for smoke-free air. They got an A.

For more on how other states did in this report, check out the State of Tobacco Control website.

The American Lung Association in Indiana recognizes this goal will only be met in Indiana if the following actions are taken by our elected officials:

1. Raise the cigarette excise tax by at least a $1 per pack.

2. Pass a comprehensive smoke-free air law that covers bars, taverns and casinos.

3. Increase funding for Indiana’s tobacco control program.