The sweeping of the state budget bill through the Indiana State Legislature left a lot of programs, and jobs, in question.
State funding was taken away from organizations that had steadily made progress in the last decade. Funding in particular to the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) organization was in question right up until the last minutes of this year's legislative session.
While there were changes to the structure of ITPC, the end result was continued funding of the program. Beginning July 1, ITPC will no longer function as a separate entity. It will instead be added to a new division of the Indiana State Health Department.
According to a letter from Karla Sneegas, executive director of ITPC, "Valuable ITPC programs, such as the community and minority-based programs, the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, the Quit Now Indiana initiative, the Voice Youth Program and other smoking cessation and prevention programs will continue.
"Tobacco reduction and protection from secondhand smoke exposure will now be further integrated into many existing state health promotion programs. Such programs include, but are not limited to, cancer prevention, oral health, asthma care, maternal/prenatal health, cardiovascular health, and minority, women's, and children's health."
Initially, the change to ITPC appeared as a move to discontinue the program. In effect, however, the move strengthened the drive to spread the message of tobacco cessation.
"Now that ITPC is incorporated under the umbrella of the State Health Department we will be able to push for access to more of the master fund settlement money," Chris Shuck, Putnam County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program director, stated. "This is huge for us!"
Indiana was awarded a master settlement of $4.5 billion in 1998 from a lawsuit against tobacco companies to fund a program that educated the public on the dangers of tobacco use. That settlement money is disbursed to the state in an amount close to $130 million annually, of which ITPC receives less than 10 percent. The rest of the money is disbursed to the Indiana Health Department.
"The opportunities for tobacco prevention will grow with this merger," Shuck said. "The creation of a specialized division in the State Health Department shows there is a greater need, and added interest in the State of Indiana as a whole to stand up against the tobacco industry."
Each year 10,000 deaths in Indiana are attributed to health issues directly related to tobacco use and second-hand smoke.
To learn more about healthy ways to quit using tobacco, persons may call 1-800-QUITNOW or contact Chris Shuck at 655-2697.