- Policy & Research
- About KHI
May 2, 2012
Tobacco use in Kansas may have gotten a boost yesterday with the passage of two measures by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
One would open up more businesses to smoking across the state.
The other would force the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to undertake an unfunded study of substituting smokeless tobacco as a “less damaging” alternative to smoking.
Adoption of these measures would set back current Kansas efforts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use, one of the biggest contributors to Medicaid costs in our state.
The 2010 Kansas Indoor Clean Air law freed Kansans from exposure to smoke in workplaces and has encouraged many Kansans to access the Quitline and other smoking cessation services over the past two years.
In 2011, as an affirmation of the law, a poll showed 77 percent of Kansans approved of the current smoking restrictions. In addition, revenue figures from the Kansas Department of Revenue demonstrate that liquor taxes have not been impacted by the clean indoor air law.
The proposed study of smokeless tobacco — a state-by-state effort initiated by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company — is designed to make the Kansas state health department promote the use of smokeless tobacco either as an aid to cessation or as a less harmful way of maintaining a tobacco addiction that keeps too many people trapped into using deadly products. Such a proposal would increase the number of new users, promote dual use of several tobacco products, and delay cessation attempts for many.
Either measure would have a profound impact on Kansas. Should the legislature free up more public places for deadly tobacco use and exposure to cigarette smoke? Should Kansas actually encourage smokeless and spit tobacco use as a less harmful solution to smoking?
What role does Kansas play in providing more venues and more encouragement for tobacco companies whose profits are based on continuing all forms of tobacco addition? What are we telling our children about tobacco use, particularly our teen boys who already have a 15.5 percent prevalence rate for smokeless tobacco use?
Neither measure should move forward. Neither is in the best interests of the people of Kansas or for public health in Kansas.
— Mary Jayne Hellebust is the executive director of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition. The opinions in the columns solely reflect those of the author. They aren't endorsed by the Kansas Health Institute, which seeks a broad range of opinion to stimulate discussion.