Coalition celebrates 20 years of tackling tobacco use


GREENFIELD — If a pack-a-day smoker started smoking 20 years ago, he or she would have smoked 146,000 cigarettes by now.

On Monday, the Hancock County Tobacco-Free Coalition focused on a more positive milestone at its 20th anniversary celebration — highlighting 20 years of helping tobacco users to quit and discouraging others from picking up the habit.

About 240 people attended the luncheon at Addagios Banquet Hall & Conference Center in Greenfield, where coalition director Brandee Bastin shared just how much of an impact the organization has made over the past two decades.

“When we started the program, the smoking rate in central Indiana was 26.6% at the time. Now the smoking rate is 11.9%,” said Bastin, who has led the coalition since its inception in 2002.

The county’s youth smoking rate has also dropped sharply over the past 20 years, she said. The smoking rate among high schoolers has fallen from roughly 30% to 5%, and the middle school smoking rate has dropped from around 9% to just over 1%.

“Now we’re dealing with vaping, and that being an epidemic, but we are making strides in getting those numbers reduced,” said Bastin.

She said a big part of that success is working with all four Hancock County school systems, all of which have tobacco-free campuses and peer-driven VOICE programs, which empower teens against messages generated by the tobacco industry.

Dozens of VOICE members and youth ambassadors attended Monday’s banquet, where three high school seniors shared their own stories of why the fight against tobacco is important to them.

Bradley Hutchinson, a senior At New Palestine High School, told the audience about how tobacco use is especially prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community.

In addition to a strong showing of youth at Monday’s banquet, Bastin also credited the dozens of elected officials, business owners, school administrators, law enforcement officers, healthcare providers and community members who turned out for the event.

“It just felt so rewarding and so encouraging that people wanted to come out and support and be there to celebrate the 20 years of the coalition. It was just an amazing day,” she said.


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