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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 1:00 am

Indiana moves to help quit smoking

Cessation products to be easier to obtain

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced Monday the state will step up efforts to help Hoosiers stop smoking.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has direction that tobacco cessation products should be less expensive and easier to access for Hoosiers who want to quit smoking or using tobacco.

Dr. Kris Box, state health commissioner, issued a standing order effective Aug. 1 allowing Hoosiers to buy tobacco cessation products at Indiana pharmacies without a prescription. Indiana becomes only the 12th state with a policy or standing order allowing pharmacists to prescribe tobacco cessation products, making the products less expensive and easier to obtain, according to a news release.

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, also announced Indiana Medicaid will reimburse health care providers offering tobacco cessation counseling for expectant mothers. She said Indiana Medicaid will remove copayments for tobacco cessation products for pregnant women or members up to one year after giving birth.

Box believes pregnant woman will accept the offer, helping state officials achieve one of their priorities.

“Studies show that women are more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy because they want to give their baby the best possible start in life,” she said in a statement. “Quitting tobacco will improve maternal health and send us farther down the path to achieving Governor Holcomb's goal of being best in the Midwest in infant mortality by 2024.”

Women who smoke are at least twice as likely to have a preterm birth, which is the leading cause of infant mortality in Indiana. Indiana has the seventh highest infant mortality rate in the nation and is third in the U.S. for maternal mortality, the news release said.

Holcomb has made reducing Indiana's infant and maternal mortality a top health priority of the state, and studies show that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth by almost 50% and neonatal death by over 20%.

“According to statistics tracked by (the Indiana State Department of Health), nearly 25 percent of expectant Indiana mothers on Medicaid smoke during pregnancy compared to approximately 8 percent of all expectant mothers nationwide,” Walthall said. “Increasing access to smoking cessation products and further reducing barriers to success will help improve both maternal and infant health.”

nkelly@jg.net