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Quitline Iowa Facing Budget Axe?

January 12, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - Calling it quits is not in the plans for Iowa's Quitline – but an effort is underway in the new legislative session to cut funding for the program.

The Iowa Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program prevents youth smoking, helps smokers quit and ultimately, saves lives and money. Now, Peggy Huppert, director of government relations for the Iowa chapter of the American Cancer Society, says the Quitline is in danger of being eliminated.

"Republican leadership is proposing a major cut to the Tobacco Prevention and Control budget in the Department of Health that, combined with a cut that Governor Culver has instituted, would pretty much devastate the program for this fiscal year."

Republicans claim the cuts would save roughly $7 million a year. However, backers of the program point out that it saves the state tens of millions of dollars in smoking-related health care costs. Huppert says the state collects millions in tobacco taxes. She believes instead of all the money going to the general fund, some needs to be used to fund tobacco cessation programs.

"Tobacco users, in exchange for paying those taxes, that when they decide that they want to quit – and 83 percent of smokers want to quit – the state's end of the bargain is that they should be there to help people when they want to quit. And that is what the Quitline is all about."

She notes that smokers on Medicaid who want to have nicotine gum or patches paid for by Medicaid also are required to sign up for the Quitline.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA