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Letter: Anti-smoking efforts pay large dividends

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Rich Stenner


Received: April 19

Return on investment is one of the basic principles of business. This is also an important concept when it comes to investing in our health as a state, where dollars invested in tobacco prevention and cessation programs can provide us tremendous returns.

Even with all the attention in recent decades, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in Indiana. In addition to the smoking-related deaths, the health care burden is an estimated $2 billion every year.

When we invest money into helping people quit and helping youths to never start smoking, we save money in the long run. One long-term study of the first states to invest heavily in tobacco prevention and cessation programs found that over a 10-year period one state saved $56 over time for every $1 invested. That’s quite a return on investment.

As a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that dates back to November 1998, Indiana receives more than $125 million annually from the tobacco industry. I’ve always thought it would make sense that the lion’s share of these funds, from tobacco companies, would go to prevention and cessation programs. However, in the current biennium, only $8 million is set aside each year for these programs. In the proposed House and Senate versions of the budget for the next biennium, the proposed funding would only be

$4 million to $5 million per year — quite a cut for programs that work.

Sometimes the value of a program is underestimated unless there are numbers and facts behind it. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Tobacco use kills more than 9,700 Hoosiers every year.
  • Each year 9,200 more children become regular smokers (essentially replacing those smokers who have died).
  • The Indiana Tobacco Quitline has served more than 84,000 Hoosiers since its launch in 2006.
  • A review of multiple quitline studies indicated that proactive quitlines, like the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, showed a 56 percent increase in quit rates when compared to self-help (people quitting on their own).
  • Tobacco companies spend $250 million a year to market their products in Indiana.

I encourage our Indiana legislators to take a hard look at these numbers. Investing in a healthier Indiana makes sense. There is positive return on this kind of investment. Let’s maintain a level of funding that will allow the state of Indiana to have the type of tobacco programs that work. Please, restore the budget to $8 million for tobacco cessation and prevention programs.

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