UI dean: Cutting smoking programs ‘step backward’

Eliminating an anti-smoking campaign targeting youth and free smoking cessation counseling would be “a step backwards for public health,” the University of Iowa’s public health dean said Tuesday.

Dean Sue Curry, who has extensive research on tobacco, including motivation to quit smoking and health care costs associated with tobacco cessation, said Iowans will see a “reversal” in the recent progress by cutting resources that are making a difference in reducing smoking.

“Iowa has been at the cutting edge of evidence-based assistance for smoking cessation and smoking prevention for the citizens of Iowa. Losing these programs is a step backwards for public health,” Curry said.

Republican lawmakers want to end Quitline Iowa, a free telephone counseling service for those trying to quit, and “Just Eliminate Lies,” which sponsors anti-tobacco ads and organizes youth conferences to battle smoking, as part of a plan to reduce the state budget.

“We would see a reversal in the progress we have been making in the last several years and I think that would be unfortunate,” Curry said. “If we care about our children and the health of Iowans, we wouldn’t want to eliminate programs that have proved effective in reducing smoking initiation among youth.”

Curry and other officials say this would not only stop progress in the campaign against smoking, it may reverse it.

“If these programs aren’t funded, smoking rates may go up or the progress may diminish,” said Trish Schiltz, a health educator in for Health Iowa/Student Health Service.

Among UI students, smoking rates have dropped from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 23.4 percent in 2009, Schiltz said.

The Johnson County Department of Public Health is working on a three-county, $103,000 grant, which includes promoting Quitline and starting and sustaining “Just Eliminate Lies” chapters in schools.

It is not yet clear how eliminating those programs would affect that grant, said Doug Beardsley, Johnson County public health director.

Those who use Quitline have a 20 percent quit rate after one year, he said.

In 2000, up to 40 percent of Iowa high schoolers smoked; that was reduced to 20 percent by 2008, Beardsley said.

Reducing smoking requires sustained effort, and stopping now will “put a damper” on progress, he said.

“It is sending a message that we are cutting something that actually works, and works effectively,” Beardsley said. “I understand the need to reign in spending, but I don’t understand why those (programs) are bigger on the radar screen.”

source: press-citizen.com

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