Author: Dr. Gregory N. Larkin

This week, Indiana joined the rest of the world in celebrating World No Tobacco Day. This global health observation was created to teach people about the dangers of tobacco use and highlight public health efforts in the fight against the tobacco epidemic. World No Tobacco Day is of particular importance to Hoosiers this year. Beginning July 1, two state government agencies critical to protecting the health of Hoosiers will be combined: the Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Tobacco Prevention & Cessation.

The General Assembly’s move to put tobacco cessation within the health department provides additional tools for Indiana to catch up with other states in the race to lower smoking rates and tobacco-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 23 percent of Indiana adults smoke cigarettes, ranking us among the worst five states for adult smoking. Clearly, the adverse health effects of tobacco use continue to increase the rates of diseases as well as increase health costs.

Combining efforts will reduce administrative redundancy and saving taxpayer dollars.

Valuable ITPC programs, such as the community- and minority-based programs, the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, Quit Now Indiana and the VOICE youth program, will continue. Tobacco reduction and protection from secondhand smoke exposure will now be further integrated into many existing state health promotion programs, such as cancer prevention, oral health, asthma care, maternal/prenatal health, cardiovascular health, and minority, women’s and children’s health.

I assure Hoosiers that by having the largest state advocate for public health align its expertise and capabilities against tobacco use, smoking cessation efforts will become stronger. Here are the important elements in Indiana’s battle against tobacco use, starting in July 2011.

ITPC executive director Karla Sneegas will become the first assistant commissioner of the newly formed Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Division. We look forward to using her expertise and experience.

The new state budget requires 85 percent of tobacco cessation appropriations to be distributed as grants to local and community programs. In April, the ITPC expert staff completed its internal grant review and approval for the next two-year cycle of funding. No changes will occur in either grant awards or processes used.

Notably, the amount of the total grant awards will increase despite a decrease in appropriations. We intend to continue to reinvest savings realized by this transfer and any other administrative efficiencies back into current cessation programming. We are also considering additional grant opportunities for new and innovative anti-smoking and cessation ideas.

Finally, we are creating a voluntary advisory board of experts passionate about forwarding the mission and direction of tobacco cessation.

Blending the respected efforts of ITPC with the broad expertise and capabilities of the Health Department provides advocates for tobacco cessation with a stronger partner in the fight against tobacco-use in Indiana.

1. Dr. Larkin is Indiana’s state health commissioner.

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