State Health Commissioner on Smoking: We Don't Punish, We Support Quitting

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State Health Commissioner on Smoking: We Don't Punish, We Support Quitting

Over one million Hoosiers smoke. The commissioner says giving it up may be doing you and the state a huge favor.

STATE WIDE--Quitting cigarettes could be one of the toughest times of your life. But, Indiana's State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, says she believes the pain of quitting is worth it for your health and for the health of the state. 

You are now being offered some new services to help you quit, especially if you're expecting.

One in five people in Indiana is a smoker.

"We have the seventh-highest smoking rate in the nation," said Box, in an interview on Abdul-at-Large. "We have 13.4 percent of our pregnant patients that smoke during pregnancy . If you look at that and our Medicaid population, that's about 24 percent. We've got some counties as high as 40 percent. We're not doing well on that front."

Box said she believes quitting is the most important thing a woman can do if she's pregnant, not only because it endangers the life of the child, but also because it increases the risk of death of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, once the child is born.

Box speculated that Indiana's resistance to taxes, including any new cigarette taxes, and a higher rate of smoking in the state's 49 rural counties, contributes to the state's status as seventh-highest sate with smokers.

Box said raising the smoking age to 21 may help.

"If we could keep cigarettes, tobacco products out of the hands of our youth, then they are more likely to be non-smokers going forward," she said.

Box said pharmacists, under a "standing order" from Gov. Holcomb, are now allowed to consult with people who are willing to quit smoking to tell them what kinds of tobacco cessation products are available to help them quit smoking, if those pharmacists choose to participate in the new program. They can also follow up and guide them through the process.

Pregnant women are also eligible for help, which may end up not costing them any money.

"Counseling is the number one thing we do with our pregnant patients. But, there are patients that tobacco cessation products are appropriate for them."

Box said the point is not to be punitive, but to be helpful and support people who want to change their lifestye and long-term life outcome.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz contributed to this story.

PHOTO: Katarlyna Bielesewicz/Getty Images

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