Reducing tobacco use is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of Hoosiers. Education campaigns to alert of the danger of tobacco use are critical, as are pointing them to resources to help them quit. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the first ever national tobacco education ad campaign “Tips from Former Smokers” that depicts the harsh reality of illness and damage people suffer as a result of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. In these ads, former smokers bravely expose their smoking-related disabilities. These are powerful, hard hitting, emotional ads that made a difference. Sadly, Terrie Hall, the North Carolina woman featured prominently in the ads, lost the battle with her smoking-related cancer last month.
Nationally, 1.6 million smokers attempted to quit smoking thanks to the Tips from Former Smokers media campaign, and 200,000 Americans had quit smoking immediately following the campaign. Almost 80 percent of smokers and almost 75 percent of nonsmokers recalled seeing at least one of the ads during the three-month campaign. The campaign is estimated to have saved a year of life for less than $200, making it one of the most cost-effective prevention efforts.
Here in Indiana, calls to the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, doubled when the ads were on air. The more we can get Hoosier smokers to try to quit, the more likely we can help them quit for good. These ads helped tobacco users take that step in quitting and direct them to a proven resource to help.
Nearly 9,700 Hoosiers die from smoking-related diseases every year, leaving behind families, friends and loved ones. At the same time, each year 8,200 Hoosiers under the age of 18 become daily smokers.
The tobacco industry spends $271 million in Indiana to market and promote their products, making smoking more attractive and more available, especially to youth and young adults.
We must address tobacco use for what it really is — an addiction that each year costs thousands of Hoosiers’ lives and more than $4 billion in health care costs and lost productivity. Bringing these messages to the public is vital if we intend to save Hoosiers from the devastation of more tobacco-related death and disease. Let’s use these hard learned lessons to end the devastating and unnecessary legacy of tobacco use in Indiana.
Dr. William VanNess, of Anderson, retired as chief executive at Community Hospital Anderson before being named state health commissioner.