Indiana’s resolution: create healthier state

BY BRYAN MILLS, DOUG LEONARD, JULIE REED, KEVIN BRINEGAR AND ROB HILLMAN

The new year is a time for making resolutions. The Alliance for a Healthier Indiana has an important one: create a healthier state in 2017. To achieve this, we must first start by tackling tobacco use to save Hoosier lives and boost our economy.

One in five Hoosiers smoke, and tobacco use costs Indiana $6 billion annually in health care expenses and lost productivity. Tobacco-related illness is the leading cause of preventable death for Hoosiers. More than 4,100 young Hoosiers become daily smokers each year. We can do better.

If residents of our state didn’t use tobacco, our economy would be healthier. For example, we would have an additional 178,000 jobs, total personal income would be $28.7 billion higher, and more than $100 billion in cumulative new investments would take place.

It’s no easy fix, but we know what works. Half of all smokers tried to quit at least once last year. With the turn of the new year, thousands of Hoosiers will resolve to quit smoking in 2017, and our resolution is to help them succeed. On average, it takes smokers seven to 10 attempts to quit smoking. Our remedy is for them to never start.

Our four-part plan is aimed at helping Hoosiers quit smoking and deterring youth from starting. Here’s how.

Raise the price. Increasing the price of tobacco has been proven the most effective way to lower smoking rates. We are proposing a $1.50 increase in the price of cigarettes.

Restore funding for cessation and prevention programs. In 2015, 68 percent of adult smokers wanted to stop smoking and 55 percent tried to quit. Yet Indiana only spent 10 percent of the CDC-recommended annual investment in tobacco cessation and prevention programs in 2014.We are asking policymakers to restore Indiana’s funding for prevention and cessation and tobacco control programs to 2001 levels — a $35 million commitment, which will put us among the top-10 states for cessation and prevention funding.

Raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes. An estimated 95 percent of adult smokers start before the age of 21. Raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 will prevent new smokers from starting.

Repeal preferential treatment for smokers. Employees who smoke increased health care costs and raise insurance premiums for everyone. It is time to allow employers to effectively manage rising health care costs.

Indiana is facing real health challenges attributable to smoking, and it is time to turn the tide. We owe it to the people of this state to make Indiana a better place to live, work and do business.

Our legislators have the opportunity to do just that in 2017, but it will take a community effort to achieve our goals. Indiana is worth the effort. Hoosier lives are worth the effort. The state’s economy is worth the effort.

We deserve a healthier Indiana. Together, we can pave the path to Hoosier health.

This was submitted by: Bryan Mills, president and CEO, Community Health Network; Doug Leonard, president, Indiana Hospital Association; Julie Reed, executive vice president, Indiana State Medical Association; Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce; and Rob Hillman, president and General Manager, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana.