INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers sided with the tobacco industry over kids by approving a budget that abolishes the highly successful Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency (ITPC) and further cuts funding for already decimated tobacco prevention programs. Tobacco prevention and cessation will become the responsibility of the Indiana State Department of Health.

The Hoosier Faith and Health Coalition, which includes involvement of United Methodists, plans to lend its support to the new state prevention and cessation program of the ISDH and to State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin. HF&HC hopes is to regain the strength of the former ITPC in order to continue a strong prevention and cessation program across the state.

HF&HC has more than 500 congregations from various faith groups, including United Methodists, along with health care providers, including UM-related IU Health Systems, all working together to lower the use of tobacco in Indiana especially among youth and young adults. HF&HC was a strong advocate for IPTC and its programs.

This is the second time state legislators have sided with the tobacco industry during this legislative session, following their failure to enact a smoke-free workplace law that protects all Hoosiers. Legislators killed the smoke-free workplace bill in the Senate Public Policy Committee. The bill died because it gave exemptions to casinos, bars, private clubs and nursing homes, which in effect rendered it ineffective. The bill entered the House without exemptions. Exemptions were added in the House and passed to the Senate. The Senate was unable to remove the exemptions.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says Indiana kids and taxpayers will pay a high price for their legislators’ failure to fight tobacco use, the state’s number one cause of preventable death. More kids will start to smoke, more lives will be lost to tobacco and Indiana taxpayers and businesses will pay more in tobacco-related health care costs, which total more than $2 billion a year in the state.

ITPC’s programs have helped reduced smoking by 58 percent among middle school students and 42 percent among high school students and has provided assistance to tens of thousands of Hoosiers trying to quit smoking. It has continued to produce results even as its budget has been repeatedly slashed, from a high of $35 million to just $9.2 million in fiscal year 2011.

Tobacco kills 9,700 Hoosiers each year, and 9,900 Indiana kids become regular smokers each year, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Tobacco kills 9,700 Hoosiers each year.