Leaders of the American Cancer Society’s Iowa chapter are urging state lawmakers to spare smoking cessation and prevention programs from budget cuts. However, legislative leaders warn it may be time to eliminate some state programs.
Peggy Huppert, Iowa government affairs director for the Cancer Society, says she always gets nervous when she hears lawmakers talk about killing entire programs. Huppert says, "We know we’ll have to take some cuts but we ask that it not be more than our fair share."
The state now spends about $13-million a year on tobacco control, which funds everything from anti-smoking advertising for teens to nicotine patches and gum for adults. Huppert says getting rid of cessation funding in particular would be unfair, especially since lawmakers voted in recent years to raise the tobacco tax and to ban smoking in public places.
"We’ve made it more expensive, we’ve made it more difficult, now we have to be there to help people quit," she says. Studies find the number of smokers in Iowa is falling, yet 4,000 Iowans die every year from tobacco-related illnesses. Huppert says the agency needs to continue its efforts.
She says "Sometimes we hear, ‘Well, you’ve had all this success, what more do we have to do?’ Well, we have had a lot of success, but 80-percent of smokers want to quit and a lot of smokers are low-income and they can’t afford cessation products on their own."
Huppert says the adult smoking rate in Iowa has dropped to 14% but the youth rate is still at 23%, which she says bolsters the agency’s case for continued funding.