The Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance is asking the governor and legislators to significantly boost state spending on anti-smoking programs.
“We realize that this is a tight budget year and we know that it’s going to be really hard and money is scarce, but increased tobacco control program funding is an investment in Iowa’s future that will yield both health care and budgetary returns in subsequent years,” says Stacy Frelund, government relations director for the Iowa office of the American Heart Association, a group that’s part of the Tobacco Prevention Alliance.
According to Frelund, more than 5100 Iowa adults have died this year due to tobacco use.
“Annually tobacco-related disease costs Iowans nearly $1.3 billion, or which approximately $365 million is billed to Medicaid,” Frelund says.
Medicaid is the government program that provides health care to about 560,000 poor and disabled Iowans. The current state budget for programs aimed at getting smokers to quit and keeping teens from starting the habit is $5.2 million. Frelund says the program is “woefully underfunded.” The Tobacco Prevention Alliance is suggesting next year’s state budget should be $7.5 million.
“Prioritizing this program and these additional dollars is critical,” Frelund says. “…We could see significant decrease in smoking rates with our kids. We could see fewer kids growing up and dying prematurely from smoking.”
According to an October report from the Iowa Department of Public Health, about one out of every six deaths in the state can be linked to tobacco use. In 2014, more than 421,000 Iowans were smoking regularly.