Local News Politics

Proposed Smoking Ban Also On Indiana Legislative Agenda

Labor-related legislation is expected to dominate much of the 2012 Indiana General Assembly that begins Wednesday, but lawmakers are also expected to again take up a proposed statewide ban.

Indiana Legislative Insight Publisher Ed Feigenbaum says it appears a ban is unlikely to win passage unless it includes and exemption for the state’s casinos, a major source of state tax revenue.

“There are very few legislators, except the militant anti-smoking advocates there, that are looking to not exempt casinos and have a total ban. Still, that’s something that sticks in the craw of anti-smoking groups,” he said.

Environment Local News

Groups Stress Necessity of Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

Even though President Barack Obama asked the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon a draft rule to tighten ozone standards, environmental groups hope the a pending federal rule on inter-state pollution will go into effect on January 1 as planned.

The Cross-State Air Pollution rule would put limits on the amount of pollution area power plants can put out, because the emissions often blow across state lines.

Former EPA Region 5 Administrator Mary Gade says the rule is necessary so states can take control over their regulatory programs. She says in 1990, Illinois did an analysis and realized:

“…that in Chicago alone we could take 2 million cars off the road and shut down 75 percent of our industry and still not meet our air quality obligations for ozone because of the air coming in across our state boundaries,” she said.

In a conference call today, representatives from the American Lung Association talked about the different ways pollution can affect human health, and how those health problems translate into money—both from health care costs and from missed work.

Cynthia Lee of the Louisville Air Pollution Control District says absenteeism is something her agency is tracking.

“Here in Jefferson County, Louisville, Kentucky, absenteeism for students is highest due to asthma,” she said.

She says researchers are correlating data from air quality alert days and relating it to absenteeism.

The rule would limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which have been shown to damage lungs and contribute to breathing problems.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Kentucky Gets Failing Grades On Tobacco Control Report Card

By Sheila Ash

The American Lung Association is releasing its annual tobacco control report card results today.

Kentucky is one of eight states that received a failing grade in all levels of tobacco control policies. They include smoke-free air laws, higher cigarette taxes, tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

However, Kentucky did make a substantial improvement in access to cessation treatments for its Medicaid recipients by allocating $1.5 million for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

Paul Billings, Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy for the association, says that’s important, given the national numbers.

“Current studies find that Medicaid recipients smoke at rates almost 60 percent higher than the general population. And the cost of not helping these smokers quit is sky high,” he said.

Billings says one out of every ten Medicaid dollars goes toward the treatment of tobacco related illnesses.

Indiana received failing grades in all areas except higher cigarette taxes where it scored a “D.”

Environment Local News

EPA Ordered to Revisit Soot Standards

A U.S. District Court of Appeals has ruled that the EPA must reconsider a 2006 decision on national soot –or particulate matter—standards.  The American Lung Association sued the agency when it decided to keep those standards at 1997 levels.  Association spokeswoman Janice Nolan says her organization believed those levels were unsafe for human health.

“EPA had said that the standard since 1997 was fine, despite the fact that there was plenty of evidence and unanimous scientific opinion that it was not, and that we needed to have a much, much lower level,” says Nolan.

The EPA is required to review certain air quality standards regularly.  But the agency has failed to keep many of those reviews on schedule.