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Guest Commentary

April 26, 2012
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Hard-hitting ads prevent tobacco use and save lives

By Steve Eckstat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched the “Tips from Former Smokers” national tobacco education ad campaign that depicts the harsh reality of illness and damage real people suffer as a result of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. In these ads, former smokers bravely expose their smoking-related disabilities on advertisements that run heavily on our airwaves between March and June.

We feel the impact of smoking-related diseases here, too. Nearly 4,400 Iowans die from smoking-related diseases every year, leaving behind families, friends and lives. At the same time, each day 1,000 Americans under the age of 18 begin smoking, yet, our state has cut youth tobacco prevention over the past couple of years.

Every hour, the tobacco industry spends $1 million to market and promote their products making smoking look glamorous, sexy and mature.

This is far from the reality of smoking. The “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign will show smoking in its true light — what physicians see in their offices day in and day out.

Reality is emphysema, heart attacks, amputations, cancer and lost voice boxes. People believe that smoking kills, but that’s only part of the story; smoking also disfigures and robs smokers of their independence. The brave former smokers in these ads will show you the reality.

We must address tobacco use for what it really is: an addiction that has cost Iowa thousands of lives and millions of dollars. In Iowa alone, $1 billion is spent on annual health care costs directly caused by smoking, of which $301 million is paid by the State Medicaid program.

It is our hope these ads help Iowa smokers quit and that our legislature will continue to provide the Quitline in our state that helps people try to quit. Unfortunately, Iowa’s Tobacco Control Program has seen significant cuts and if this trend continues, we could see an increase in both adult and youth smoking rates.

Bringing these messages to the public is vital if we intend to save Iowans from the devastation of more tobacco-related death and disease. The CDC recommends Iowa spend $36.7 million on tobacco control programs. Two-hundred-ninety-five million dollars is collected from the cigarette taxes and tobacco settlement payments every year — more than enough to support an adequate tobacco control program. Currently, Iowa spends 2.8 million on the state’s Tobacco Control Program, while the tobacco industry spends more than $100 million in Iowa each year to recruit new smokers. This is why it is critical that our legislators restore funding for the Tobacco Division to $7.8 million so we can help provide resources to Iowans to quit smoking and prevent our youth from ever starting this deadly habit. I urge you to contact elected officials across Iowa to support these proven solutions:

• A well-funded tobacco prevention program with a strong youth tobacco prevention program.

• Strengthening Iowa’s Smoke-Free Air Act to protect Iowa’s entire workforce.

• Higher tobacco taxes.

• Tobacco-free schools. CV

Dr. Steve R. Eckstat is a general practitioner and resides in Altoona.

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