Statement by Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames, member of the Iowa Tobacco Use Prevention & Control Commission
“I welcome the spirit of Governor Branstad’s new effort to make Iowa the healthiest state in nation. The governor’s recent actions, however, speak louder than the words he said today.
“The single most effective thing a state can do to improve health and reduce health care costs is discourage tobacco addiction and help people quit smoking. Under the leadership of Democratic Governors Vilsack and Culver, Iowa made workplaces smoke-free and dedicated the funds from increased tobacco taxes to prevention and health care.
“According to the American Cancer Society, Iowa’s anti-smoking efforts resulted in a 24 percent drop in coronary heart disease, an 8 percent drop in heart attacks and a 5 percent drop in strokes.
“Under Governor Branstad’s predecessors, Iowa was especially successful in reducing the percentage of young Iowans who smoke, thanks to the Just Eliminate Lies (JEL) advertising campaign which directly confronted the claims of tobacco companies.
“Governor Branstad has yet to prove he is committed to continuing Iowa’s success in this area. His administration recently removed of the superbly effective head of the Iowa Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, supposedly for budgetary reasons. Only after a public outcry did Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Branstad’s Director of the Department of Public Health, acknowledge that the law requires that agency to be headed by a full-time administrator. Miller-Meeks should now fill that opening with an appointee as highly qualified as the one she just removed.
“And, Miller-Meeks should drop plans to disband the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, also something which she cannot legally do.
“A key measure of Governor Branstad’s commitment to a healthier Iowa will be his administration’s success in fighting smoking among youth. As all parents and teachers know, peer pressure is a powerful force in the lives of teens. Peer pressure can lead teens into dangerous experimentation with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. The JEL program uses peer-to-peer teen communication to steer kids in a positive direction away from smoking and is proven effective.
“Yet, House Republicans this year tried to kill the program, and Miller-Meeks has indicated she wants to downgrade its effectiveness. Governor Branstad would go a long way to demonstrating his commitment to youth health by reaffirming his commitment to JEL.
“I hope the Branstad Administration’s future results in this area will far outperform the poor start so far by his administration.”