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September 13th, 2016:

Our Opinion: Addressing the economic costs of addiction

Two recent studies offer proof that Indiana’s battle with tobacco and opioid addictions goes far beyond impacting public health; there are real economic consequences, too.

The studies, released by the Fairbanks Foundation and conducted by IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, show addictions cost Indiana more than $8.2 billion a year.

The toll from tobacco alone comes to US$6.8 billion when taking into account health care costs, the impact of secondhand smoke, lost productivity on the job and other smoking-related diseases. The studies also found that opioid overdose deaths also cost the state $1.4 billion in 2014.

Indiana is not doing enough when it comes to addressing these critical health care issues. The state has shortchanged itself when it comes to tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The General Assembly has continually raided money intended to pay for smoking cessation efforts and public initiatives aimed at helping smokers. In 2014, lawmakers cut tobacco prevention and control funding to $5.8 million, which is about 7.8 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spending to help Hoosiers kick the habit.

For the first time in at least six years, drug overdose deaths in 2015 in St. Joseph County outnumbered murders and fatal auto crashes combined, driven by a dramatic increase in lethal overdoses linked to heroin and related opiate painkillers.

Some say the studies represent increasing attention being paid to these issues. That’s good if that’s indeed the case. These deadly addictions can only be treated if they’re addressed openly with help from both the private and public sectors. It’s not only a critical public health issue, it’s also important for the economic vitality of Hoosiers.

Dumping tobacco industry investments

Hapai Te Hauora, the voice of Tobacco Control in New Zealand are pleased with the investment dump of at least $109 million in controversial tobacco industry and weapons investments following a Herald investigation into responsible investment policies. The Insights series Dirty Secrets of Your KiwiSaver sparked a public outcry and intensified debate after the story broke a few weeks ago.

Hapai CEO, Lance Norman says this is a powerful example of direct public response to slash any association with the tobacco industry. It highlights the significance of responsible investing by kiwi’s and the need to maintain a strong vigilant hand in all our public or private dealings with the tobacco industry. The New Zealand public have spoken through action to refuse investments with tobacco industry.

Zoe Hawke who leads the National Tobacco Control Advocacy services says, “We don’t want their (tobacco industry) money or their products, it is clear, this is a solid public statement against firms making tobacco or guilty of gross human rights abuses.”

New Zealand have a goal of becoming Smokefree by 2025 with international and local evidence showing that the majority of smokers regret ever smoking or wish to stop smoking.

Mr. Norman says, “It is important to ensure our communities, iwi, whanau and tamariki have zero exposure to the harms of tobacco industry products and other industries that contribute to the detriment of human kind.

The Insights series Dirty Secrets of Your KiwiSaver found providers managing the retirement savings accounts for more than 2 million New Zealanders had made $153 million of investments in companies blacklisted for ethical reasons by the government-run New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

Hapai are leaders in Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocacy and deliver national and local services. Hapai provide a strategic focus that is underpinned by evidence based research for the advancement of health and wellbeing for communities. The mission of Hapai is to increase opportunities for Maori and all communities to enjoy good health and to be sustained by healthy environments.