Tobacco programs fight for lungs and funds in Indiana

Irene Boone-Phillips, coordinator for the Tobacco Free Lake County Coalition, sits in front of the e-cigarette paraphernalia she has collected.

The assortment includes disposable and refillable e-cigarette devices and related accessories, jars of vape juice, a variety of flavored cigars and other items she finds as she monitors retail outlets that sell tobacco products. She brings these with her when she visits schools, health fairs and other events.

Her strategy mirrors Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams’ recent call to action directed at parents, teachers and healthcare providers: “You have a role to play in addressing this public health epidemic. Learn about the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of all forms of e-cigarette use.”

Boone-Phillips coordinates one of the county tobacco control coalitions comprised of corporations and nonprofits, healthcare systems, school districts, municipalities and universities in Northwest Indiana. She works with Franciscan Health Foundation, Munster, as her lead agency. The minority coalition works with the Northwest Indiana Health Dept. Cooperative. The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County works with Valparaiso University as its lead agency.

The battle is on for the hearts, lungs and minds of Indiana’s youth. But it’s a battle for dollars, too.

“We were seeing statistics go down,” Rivich said. “And then of course, vaping arrived on the scene.”

At the same time, funding for county tobacco control has been decreasing. Boone-Phillips said when she was the minority tobacco control coordinator for Gary Community Health Foundation in 2007 she had about $350,000 available for program funding.



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