A recent report from the Surgeon General suggests a reduction in tobacco prevention programs nationwide since 2003 is to blame for more people picking up the habit. Stacy Frelund is government relations director for the Iowa office of the American Heart Association. She’s concerned a $5-million cut in prevention programs in Iowa last year will halt a 10 year decline in Iowa smokers.
“It’s scary when you think about 600,000 middle school students that smoke cigarettes in the United States. That’s a lot. I think about students here in Iowa and I know that it’s happening out there,” Frelund said. “How are we going to counter that? How are we going to get these kids to stop or prevent the kids who haven’t stated yet?”
The state cuts last year eliminated youth-led tobacco prevention programs in many cities and cut staff at the Iowa tobacco Quit Line. Frelund is worried the prevention program cuts will lead to more Iowans lighting up.
“We know that this program has been very effective over the years. We’ve (helped) thousands of people quit smoking. We have saved lives and our aim is always to try to save more lives. That’s what we’re about. We really want to prevent people from smoking,” Frelund said.
This week, a committee in the Iowa House could discuss eliminating tobacco prevention funds altogether. Frelund claims anti-tobacco campaigns in Iowa resulted in a seven percent decrease in smokers between 2001 and 2011.