MUNCIE (AP) — The Delaware County Health Department will have to rely more on local residents to sustain their anti-smoking efforts rather than government dollars.
The Indiana State Department of Health has announced a $3 million cut for smoking cessation programs across the state, providing $5 million total to county departments of health.
"This is a problem, even for Delaware County," said Joshua Williams, the local health department administrator. "Even though we have a strong smoking ban in the county, we hoped to move toward helping people actually quit smoking. But cutting these dollars, especially when we're going up against hundreds of millions of dollars of tobacco advertisement, is going to be tough, for sure."
This year, Williams and staff at the DCHD had planned to assist pregnant women in their anti-smoking efforts. Nearly 20 percent of pregnant women in the county smoke cigarettes, according to the ISDH and related health studies.
They also have potential anti-smoking endeavors with local workplaces and large campus spaces, including Ivy Tech Community College.
Until the county has been notified of their budget, those plans will have to be delayed, Williams told The Star Press.
To date, the ISDH hasn't determined how much money each county health department will receive for the 2013-2015 funding cycle.
The county health department was given $262,000 for the last two-year cycle, an amount they expect to decrease, affecting not only their office, but the Health Coalition of Delaware County as well.
The Health Coalition focuses its tobacco-free efforts, which is funded by the county's smoking cessation funds, on communities of color, which traditionally have higher smoking rates.
"The (Centers for Disease Control) had already reported that Indiana's health departments already received only 11 percent of the funding needed to achieve best practice status for smoking cessation and this isn't making it any better," said Judy Mays, the tobacco-free coordinator for the local health coalition. "The numbers tell us what we're up against and this isn't going to help us at all."
The CDC has listed Indiana 49th in the nation when it comes to state support for public health funding, and health care professionals expect the ISDH's latest decision to move the state closer to the bottom.
Tobacco-free Indiana, a non-profit coalition of smoking cessation advocates throughout the state, reports Indiana loses $2.6 billion in productivity due to smoking-related illnesses.
They also report marketing dollars promoting smoking products decreased during the last decade, as did the number of teenagers using cigarettes.
The coalition reported tobacco companies spent slightly more than $440 million on advertising for smokeless tobacco products, items perceived as safer than cigarettes and cigars, but the U.S. Surgeon General and the CDC argue the opposite.
The local health department also planned to create projects bringing attention to smokeless tobacco products and the connection to smoking and health problems.
"We're getting to our young people. That we know. Just the other day, a young man told me if people his age didn't smoke, their kids wouldn't smoke. That's the message we want to spread," Mays said. "But that's only part of our work. We have to still work on adults, informing them we can help them quit ... and they can keep the momentum going through their actions. The money isn't going to be there to do it."