Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Quirmbach sounds alarm on public health firing
The administrator of the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control was terminated from her position last week by the Iowa Department of Public Health Director, an Ames Democrat who sits on the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission as an ex-officio member.
In a letter to media editors in Iowa, Sen. Herman Quirmbach expressed discontent with the firing of Bonnie Mapes by Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and shared concerns about the future of the division with other anti-smoking lobbying groups.
Quirmbach’s letter is reproduced below:
Last week while Lance Armstrong and other anti-cancer advocates were in Carroll, Iowa, promoting tobacco cessation and other wellness initiatives, the Branstad administration was hard at work undercutting their efforts.
I was dismayed to learn that last week Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks quietly fired Bonnie Mapes, administrator of the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control. Miller-Meeks has told some members of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission that she intends to seek legislation to disband the Division entirely and that she has little interest in developing effective tobacco control policy, despite a statutory responsibility to do so.
Iowa’s Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control is a national model for cancer prevention. According to the American Cancer Society, Iowa’s anti-smoking efforts have resulted in a 24 percent drop in coronary heart disease, an 8 percent drop in heart attacks and a 5 percent drop in strokes. Iowa is now number two in the nation for the lowest adult smoking rate, and youth smoking rates dropped 13 percentage points from 2000-2008. Despite these remarkable successes, smoking remains the number one cause of death in our state, killing 4,400 Iowans each year.
Studies show that every dollar spent on tobacco cessation leads to $3 in health care savings. Yet during the legislative session, Republicans tried to completely eliminate funding for tobacco prevention and cessation. We persuaded them to keep $2.8 million in the budget, but that still represents a significant cut.
If Iowa is serious about fighting cancer, we can’t afford to undermine prevention efforts. If you’re among the 68 percent of Iowans who believe the state should support tobacco cessation efforts, I encourage you to make your voice heard before it’s too late.”
The Governor’s Office referred questions from the Iowa Independent to Miller-Meeks. A message left at her office was not immediately returned Monday.
The Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, which faced significant budget cuts this past session, undertakes anti-smoking operatives throughout the state, from counseling to advertisements.
(Editor’s Note: Miller-Meeks later responded to Quirmbach’s letter, saying that Mapes opted for early retirement in the wake of steady funding cuts for the cessation program. Miller-Meeks also said that IDPH’s intention is not to stop the program.)