Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Study Ranks Counties By Health

In Local News on February 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked counties within each state by health. They considered a variety of factors in the catergories of mortality, morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

Daviess ranked 48th of the 92 counties in Indiana, and Pike County ranked 88th. We have a lot of work to do to improve the health of our friends and neighbors.

Here are snapshots of data for Daviess and Pike.


Cigarette Consumption Has Decreased

In State News on February 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

Since 2000, cigarette consumption has declined by 36% in Indiana. Cigarette consumption is calculated based on per-pack sales and provides an estimate of “how” much Hoosiers are smoking. Indiana has long had one of the highest smoking consumption rates in the country. The decrease of consumption, particularly in the last 2 years, is a strong indicator that Hoosiers are changing their smoking behavior. For free coaching to help you quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Cigars And Pipes Also Cause Lung Disease

In Local News on February 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

Here’s a link to a very interesting article about a study that found smoking cigars and pipes, even if you don’t inhale, puts you at greater risk for lung disease like COPD.

Researchers Michael Steinberg and Cristine Delnevo said the findings were particularly important as cigars and pipes are still often seen as emblems of “sophistication, affluence, education and celebration” and people had the mistaken belief that not inhaling the smoke meant it was not harmful.

“These images largely fostered by the tobacco industry, perpetuate the idea that these products play a suitable role in our society,” they said in a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

ITPC Is Important To Tobacco Control

In State News on February 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm

This ran in today’s Indianapolis Star

Goodbye, tobacco prevention; hello, more disease, death

By Richard Feldman

Posted: February 16, 2010

My proudest moment as state health commissioner was sitting beside Gov. Frank O’Bannon in March 2000 as he signed Indiana’s historic tobacco settlement legislation and handed me the pen. This legislation, the state’s greatest public health achievement, created the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency to administer a comprehensive tobacco-prevention program with funding adequate to meet guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the settlement legislation deliberations, I was asked if I wanted the program placed at the Indiana State Department of Health. Although tobacco control was my top priority, I supported an independent agency with a governing board to preserve its focus, to maintain some measure of separation from gubernatorial control, and to insulate it from the capriciousness of politics and tobacco-industry influence.

Senate Bill 298 contains a provision that would abolish the tobacco prevention agency, move the program and its funding to the Department of Health, terminate its 14 staff positions, and dissolve its 22-member volunteer executive board, which includes tobacco-control experts and public health professionals. Passed by the Senate and now under consideration in the House, the legislation is likely headed for conference committee.

The legislation would save about $1 million a year in administrative costs, mostly by eliminating all of the staff positions. Moving it to the Department of Health may sound like a good consolidation plan, but, as the department’s former head, I can assure you it isn’t. Department of Health staffing is already marginal and there is no one there to administrate a meaningful program. It will be given to a few individuals with other full-time responsibilities and little or no expertise in tobacco prevention. It will become a backwater program with its funding eventually raided for other uses. Although Department of Health officials publicly say they can efficiently administer the program, privately they admit they lack the personnel and the capacity to work with communities. It is going there to die. The same scenario occurred in Mississippi and Ohio. Their programs have since withered.

Over the past 10 years the agency has received $137 million, nearly half of that appropriated in the first three years. Funding was brutally cut in 2004. The annual appropriation now is only $10.8 million (the CDC recommends $78.8 million) despite Indiana receiving an average of $150 million in settlement funds each year. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry spends $426 million annually in Indiana to promote its products.

Despite insufficient funding, the program has produced impressive results. Although the smoking rate has dropped only modestly for adults 25 and older, smoking declines in Hoosier children have been astonishing and far greater than the national trend. Between 2000 and 2008, smoking declined 42 percent among high school students and 58 percent among middle-school students.

These decreases cannot be adequately explained by the relatively modest increase in the state cigarette tax or the enactment of smoke-free laws. States with functional tobacco-control programs have the greatest declines in smoking. Beyond the numbers, the agency has benefitted the state’s tobacco-control efforts in many ways, including serving as the catalyst for community organization necessary to enact smoke-free ordinances. Also, tobacco prevention is a wise investment. Tobacco costs Indiana $3.5 billion annually in health-care and business-related expenses. Each dollar spent for tobacco prevention reduces that bill by up to $7.

Indiana, which ranks second-highest in adult smoking, should not only increase tobacco-control funding but also retain the prevention program, a nationally acclaimed independent agency with the expertise to deliver results. In one of the unhealthiest states, it is shameful, unconscionable and shortsighted to do otherwise. If this agency is dismantled, a future of more death and disease from increased smoking awaits Hoosier children.

Feldman, M.D., is director of medical education and family medicine residency at St. Francis Hospitals and Health Centers and is a former state health commissioner. Contact him at

All Workers Deserve Smoke-Free Environments

In Local News, State News on February 16, 2010 at 8:35 am

I would like to raise few points concerning Rep. Mark Messmer’s column in Saturday’s paper. While it’s good news that the House passed a smoke-free workplace bill, we have a few problems with the bill as it currently stands. We hope that the Senate will hear these concerns and make adjustments accordingly.

First, the bill pre-empts local governments from passing stronger laws. That means towns, cities, and counties around the state cannot choose to protect more workers than the state law allows.

Secondly, the bill does not protect all workers. It contains exemptions for bars, casinos, and a number of other workplaces. We feel that all workers deserve protection from secondhand smoke, no matter where they work or the color of their collar. Many workers have limited options for employment in today’s economy, so they currently may not have a choice whether to work in a smoky environment.

While I completely support individual freedoms and limited government, freedom does not give license to maim and kill other people. If this were a law about protecting workers from asbestos or any other airborne chemical known to cause the amounts of death and disease that secondhand smoke does, there would be no question whether legislators should pass a law forbidding businesses to endanger their workers in the name of freedom or profits. And I should point out, studies show the hospitality industry does not lose business by going smoke-free.

Ironically, these developments come as 1) the House considers SB 298, which contains a clause that would dissolve ITPC, the independent agency that oversees tobacco control efforts in Indiana funded by tobacco settlement dollars, NOT taxes, and 2) this Through With Chew Week.

Through With Chew Week 2010

In Local News on February 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

This week is Through With Chew Week, and Thursday is the Great American Spit Out, a national campaign to encourage users to spit out their tobacco once and for all. We’ve all heard that smoking causes lung disease, heart disease, and a variety of cancers. But many people incorrectly assume that smokeless tobacco products are less harmful because users aren’t breathing in smoke, and there’s no secondhand smoke to harm other people. And tobacco companies certainly aren’t doing anything to change those beliefs.

However, leading health care authorities in the U.S. and around the world – like the U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Toxicology Program, and World Health Organization – have unequivocally stated that smokeless tobacco products are harmful to health.

Smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins and carcinogens. According to the Center for Disease Control, oral tobacco use causes not only cancer of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract, but also gum and other oral diseases, heart disease, reproductive problems such as reduced sperm count, and nicotine addiction.

Tobacco companies continue to produce and market new smokeless tobacco products as “safer alternatives” to attract new users and keep smokers addicted. These include snus, which is spitless tobacco in a tiny pouch, and breath mint-like tablets marketed under a couple different brands. Many groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, FDA and Good Housekeeping have expressed concern that these products are targeted toward children because they are packaged and flavored like candy. Indiana Poison Control has reported several instances of children suffering nicotine poisoning from using these alternative products.

This Thursday, the Daviess County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition encourages you to improve your health and set a good example for your children. Call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free coaching and support to spit out tobacco for good.

FDA Looking At Dissolvable Tobacco Products

In Local News, State News on February 8, 2010 at 9:02 am

Check out this article distributed by Reuters. The FDA wants to study the dangers of dissolvable tobacco products and make sure they don’t get into the hands of children. The article mentions Stonewalls, which are being sold in Daviess County.

FDA probes candy-like tobacco products

Wed, Feb 3 2010

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. health officials are seeking more information about the possible attraction and addiction of flavored, dissolvable tobacco products that regulators worry look too much like candy and can entice children.

The products, made by Reynolds American Inc’s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co and by Star Scientific Inc, contain powdered “smokeless” tobacco and are brightly colored, with flavors such as coffee and mint.

Companies have argued that the products, which include dissolvable tablets, are aimed at adults who must deal with a growing number of smoking bans in public places as well as those looking to stop smoking.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in letters to Reynolds and Star Scientific released late Tuesday, said it was concerned that the products could draw in children and teenagers. Use of the products could lead to nicotine addiction and could even cause health problems from the ingestion of too much nicotine, the FDA said.

While laws vary among the U.S. states, most limit tobacco purchase to those 18 and older.

FDA is “concerned that children and adolescents may find dissolvable tobacco products particularly appealing, given the brightly colored packaging, candy-like appearance and easily concealable size of many of these products,” Lawrence Deyton, head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, wrote February 1.

The letters come as the FDA prepares to hold its first public meeting on tobacco issues later this year. Agency officials have quickly moved to flex their new oversight of tobacco products after a new law granted them the power last year.

Any move by the FDA to further regulate or even remove dissolvable tobacco products from the U.S. market would be a huge blow to Star Scientific. The one-time cigarette manufacturer has shifted its focus to making products it says expose consumers to lower levels of toxins.

Sara Troy Machir, a spokeswoman for Star Scientific, said the company was not surprised by the letter and would cooperate fully.

“We’re happy to share information with them,” Machir said, adding that Star’s smokeless products — Ariva and Stonewall — have been on the market for 10 years.

Representatives for R.J. Reynolds did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

R.J. Reynolds markets three types of similar products under its Camel brand that deliver dissolvable nicotine in tablet, mouth strip and small matchstick-like forms.

The two companies have been embroiled in a patent dispute over some of the technology behind the dissolvable products.

While FDA in its letters to the two companies acknowledged the products are marketed to adults, it nonetheless asked both manufacturers for extensive information on research and marketing practices for the products.

Star Scientific and Reynolds have two months to respond.

The FDA posted the letters on its website.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

Open Letter To General Assembly

In Local News, State News on February 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

Dave Crooks wrote an awesome open letter to the General Assembly on his political blog today:

Gotta love the peeing in a pool analogy!