More Northwest Indiana residents are trying to quit smoking in the last two years, and the statewide smoking ban likely is part of the reason. | Andy Lavalley~Post-Tribune
Anyone who wants to quit smoking
can call the state’s free hotline
at (800) 784-8669.
Updated: May 16, 2013 6:20AM
Although Indiana still has one of the highest smoking rates in the country, more than half of the Hoosiers who smoke tried to quit in 2011, according to a Ball State University study.
Although overall numbers for Porter and Lake counties weren’t available, local officials say more and more Northwest Indiana residents are trying to kick the habit.
The Ball State report, Burden of Adult Smoking in Indiana, shows 25.7 percent of citizens smoke, giving the state the seventh-highest total in the nation. Those smokers rang up $4.7 billion in health care bills in 2010, and 9,700 Hoosiers died from smoking that same year, according to the report.
In 2011, 57.5 percent of those smokers tried to quit by giving up smoking for at least one day. The state’s rate for people who try to quit, which mirrors the national trend, has increased since the mid-1990s, when just 40 percent of smokers tried to quit.
Susan Gleason, program coordinator for the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County, said that in Porter County 243 people will die this year from tobacco-related illnesses, with 54 of them coming from Portage, 46 from Valparaiso and 19 from Chesterton. That doesn’t count the 29 Porter County residents who likely will die from second-hand smoke this year, Gleason said.
“Most people really want to quit,” she said. “It’s a powerful addiction, as bad as heroin.”
Both Lake and Porter counties have seen success through a state helpline, Indiana Tobacco Quitline. Counselors who get 240 hours of training coach residents over the phone or through a website. The hotline is free and anonymous.
“It’s proving to just be an amazing resource for people to use,” Gleason said.
The hotline is one of the main resources Lake County residents use to quit, Cynthia Sampson, executive director of the Lake County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition, said.
The county has seen a growth in the number of people who use the hotline in just the past few months, she said.
In December, 35 more people started to use the hotline. The group grew by 45 in January and by 51 in February.
Although the numbers might seem small, Sampson said, “they’re major to us.”
Her group also has started working with local businesses to run cessation programs for employees, and she said parents who go through Head Start receive help to quit smoking.
“Fewer and fewer kids are coming to school with tobacco smoke on them,” Sampson said.
The state’s new law banning smoking in most public places also seems to help. After not smoking while they’re at work, people feel strong enough to quit smoking altogether, Sampson said.
Whether the hotline will remain a strong resource for smoking cessation depends on how much funding the state gives it. Gleason said a CDC study showed that the program needed $78 million to be most effective. The most the hotline, which is mostly funded by tobacco legal settlements, ever has received was $35 million, Gleason said, and that has been cut in recent years to just a little more than $9 million.
The program used to offer two weeks worth of free nicotine replacement drugs, such as patches, to anyone who used the hotline. That stopped after 2010, however, which is when it was cut to just Medicaid patients and people without insurance.
That cut hurt Porter County’s numbers, Gleason said. In 2010, 383 people used the hotline. That dropped to just 245 people in 2011, with a slight increase to 250 people last year.
Gleason urged state lawmakers to replace the funding since the health care costs of smoking to the state is much more.
“It just seems a little strange that if we were saving money for them in health care costs that they would cut that,” Gleason said.