Claire Fiddian-Green is the President & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

Yesterday the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced its plan to make its grandstands completely smoke-free starting this fall. We applaud IMS President Doug Boles and Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark D. Miles for their bold leadership when it comes to protecting the health of Hoosiers and IMS fans from across the globe.

A study released by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation last September showed that Indiana’s tobacco epidemic – an often-overlooked issue – costs our state more than 12,000 lives and $6.8 billion annually. And a report we released earlier this month found that Hoosier smokers on Medicaid cost taxpayers 51% more than non-smoking Hoosiers on Medicaid –totaling $540 million each year. These findings make it abundantly clear that Indiana is facing a significant challenge when it comes to tobacco addiction.

The good news is, there are evidence-based policies and programs that we know will work to tackle our state’s tobacco crisis. Employers like IMS play a critical role. By establishing tobacco-free environments, they can discourage deadly addictive behaviors and protect all people – especially children – from harmful second-hand smoke. Plus, when young people aren’t surrounded by adults who smoke, they have fewer opportunities to pick up their first cigarette – and may be less likely to become addicted to smoking.

The scope of Indiana’s tobacco addiction crisis is immense. It will take bold leadership from policy makers, employers and other community leaders to dramatically reduce rates of smoking in our state. IMS sets a strong example that other Indiana institutions should consider emulating.

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Reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes may lead some current smokers to smoke more – at least in the short term. But there’s also evidence that reducing nicotine in cigarettes can help reduce smoking.

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