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The Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County has had a successful year in their efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use. This coalition is a program dedicated to saving lives by reducing tobacco use and eliminating health disparities related to tobacco. Funded by the Indiana State Department of Health, the organization promotes prevention and reduction in youth tobacco use and access to tobacco products, cessation services to assist smokers in quitting, and protection of residents from secondhand smoke.
"We have a really strong coalition in our community,” said Don Spears, Coalition Chair of the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County. "Having strong partnerships with a diverse group of community partners has been key to our really making an impact with tobacco use particularly when it comes to youth vaping and eliminating health disparities in smoking cessation efforts,” Spears said.
Spears said the coalition felt that promoting the Indiana Quitline made the strongest impact in 2019.
“This year was very exciting for us because we added an aspect to the quitline for behavioral health patients,” Spears said. “People who suffer from depression, anxiety, and many other behavioral health issues smoke 40 percent of all cigarettes, so in 2019 the Quitline began a designated program specifically tailored to this. Indiana is one of the few states to have a specific program like this.”
In December 2019, legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President to raise the sales age for all nicotine and tobacco products to 21. This was a major victory for the tobacco control community.
“We advocated for Tobacco 21 on the state level,” Spears said. “As part of the coalition, we wrote letters to our federal legislators to support this and we are pretty happy that it was passed. There is still more work to be done on the state level to improve enforcement of the new law and that is what our coalition is currently working on with state legislative members.”
Increasing the age to purchase tobacco is only part of the solution to addressing the teen vaping epidemic. The state of Indiana is working diligently to address teen vaping and tobacco use. In 2020, the coalition will be working hard to educate the community about the dangers of vaping and empower teens to promote quitting vaping or not starting through peer outreach with Indiana VOICE, a youth advocacy movement.
“In 2020, we want to continue promoting the Quitline since it’s our biggest resource. We also want to protect more Hoosiers from secondhand smoke exposure with efforts like our smoke-free housing program,” Spears said.
The Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition is also currently advocating for Portage bars and private clubs to go smoke-free, as part of the Breathe Easy Portage Initiative.
The Indiana Tobacco Quitline is a free phone-based counseling service that helps Indiana smokers quit. Their services include one-on-one coaching for tobacco users who have decided to quit and resources for healthcare providers who want to improve patient outcomes. It can be reached at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Additional support for teens who need help quitting vaping can text #ditchJUUL for help in quitting vaping.
To learn more about the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition and their various services, please visit www.valpo.edu/tepc/index.php