Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Terre Haute Tribune-Star. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: Hopeful trend on substance abuse by youth

The past two years have not produced an overwhelming amount of positives. The COVID-19 pandemic leaves few silver linings.

Yet, one byproduct of the circumstances offers hope.

The 2022 Indiana Youth Survey shows the past two years have seen the largest drops in substance abuse among Hoosier middle and high school-age kids in more than 30 years. The poll encompasses much of the state and has a long record of credibility dating back to the 1990s. Researchers at Prevention Insights — a unit of the Indiana University School of Public Health — studied the responses of more than 90,000 students in grades 6 through 12 from 323 schools statewide.

Student responses indicated use of alcohol by high school seniors, in the month prior to taking the survey, was down 39.8 percentage points from 1991. Alcohol use by 12th-graders peaked that year at 59.7%. This year’s survey showed cigarette use by 11th-graders was 37.3 percentage points lower than the 1996 peak of 40.1%. Likewise, marijuana use by sophomores was down 16.5 percentage points from 24.9% in 1996, the highest level in survey history.

Students in grades 7 through 12 also reported lower uses of electronic vaping products and prescription drugs not prescribed to them this year, compared to 2020. Those students also perceived a decreased level of availability this year, compared to 2020, of most substances, including cocaine, LSD and amphetamines.

Of course, almost everything that has occurred during the pandemic comes with an asterisk. Supplies of all kinds of products, even those obtained illegally, have been disrupted. Interactions have also been changed and irregular.

“The pandemic has disrupted adolescents’ daily lives and may have prevented youth from accessing substances,” Ruth Gassman, senior scientist at IU School of Public Health and executive director of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, said in a news release.

Thus, the researchers will be watching the trends leading up to the next Indiana Youth Survey in 2024. Jon Agley, the deputy director at Prevention Insights, said the 2022 results look positive, “but it’s unclear whether these trends will continue.” Another variable could be the Food and Drug Administration’s recent ban on Juul vaping products.

The vigilance of adults in the lives of young Hoosiers could determine whether youth substance abuse remains at lower levels. Parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, church and organization leaders can influence decisions made by kids and teenagers. Those adults, as well as teens, can find guidance on preventing abuse of alcohol and other substances from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration online at https://bit.ly/3zumW1e. That assistance could help make the difference in keeping this particular trend of 2020 to 2022 ongoing.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. August 3, 2022.

Editorial: Sports books making bank of Hoosiers’ love of sports

We’ll wager that some of you saw this coming – support for legalized sports betting is growing.

“Four years after the Supreme Court overturned a law that limited sports gambling mostly to Nevada, 66% now approve of making betting on professional sporting events legal,” reports the Washington Post citing its own poll with the University of Maryland. “That’s up from 55% who said the same in 2017, before the Supreme Court decision, and 41% in 1993.”

This is great news for the sports betting industry, which is live and legal in 30 states plus the District of Columbia. That also equates to money for states.

Indiana sanctioned sports betting in 2019, with authorized users being commercial casinos, racinos (combined racetrack and casino) and off-track betting. The physical sports books began operations in September 2019, and online sports betting was launched a month later.

Since legalization, Indiana has generated more than $61 million in sports betting revenue from more than $8.3 billion wagered, reports the gambling business site Legal Sports Report.

Nationally, the online betting market doubled by ballooning to $52.7 billion in 2021, reports the data intelligence company Morning Consult.

Today, the four largest online sportsbooks Hoosiers use are FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars, which represent market shares of 33%, 30%, 14% and 11% respectively. In June, the four combined to take in $208.7 million of online bets made by Hoosiers, said Legal Sports Report.

If you watch media, it’s hard to miss the torrent of ads in broadcast and the web presenting the ease of use for mobile apps.

“The $1.2 billion the sports betting industry reportedly spent on U.S. marketing is converting a significant number of occasional bettors into regular bettors and, to a lesser degree, bringing new bettors into the fold,” opined Morning Consult in an analysis released in January.

Much of last year’s spending included the “paid infusion of sports betting odds, angles and storylines into live sports telecasts and editorial content reached fans regardless of where they lived,” Morning Consult remarked.

But with the rose comes thorns.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed in the WaPo-Maryland poll say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that increased access will lead to more addiction. Twenty-one percent said they have a family member with a gambling problem, and 14% have a close friend with a gambling addiction.

A 2019 review of 51 eligible problem/pathological gambling-related studies by the National Institutes of Health set up an archetype. Early-onset gamblers were likely to be male, never married and have incomes below $70,000. They tended to have undiagnosed mood disorders. Pathological gambling generally was related to obesity, increased stress and poorer physical health.

None of this is surprising. But this factoid is fascinating: “(Recreational) gambling was linked with improved physical and mental functioning in older adults.”

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Gambling has an upside for the state in terms of revenue and for individuals as a form of entertainment. There are obvious dangers in the form of addiction, which we know hurts families and communities. Individuals must weigh why they’re wagering. Is betting on games fun or a compulsion?

The state also must weigh whether expanding gambling, including online lotteries, is worth the short-term gain in revenue if those wages are offset by long-term rise in pathological behaviors.

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Jeffersonville News and Tribune. August 4, 2022.

Editorial: Indiana lawmakers moving too fast on abortion ban

In its rush to make Indiana one of the first states to adopt new restrictions after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Republican majority in the Indiana General Assembly has taken an unwise approach to its pending adoption of a near total ban on abortion.

Such an important issue shouldn’t be shoved through, as the potential changes being proposed would have dramatic effects on the control Hoosier women have over their bodies, their health and their lives. The pace at which lawmakers are moving is also creating confusion.

Physicians shared their concerns while testifying Aug. 2. Physicians are worried about interpretation of the potential law in the event of an emergency abortion to save the mother’s life.

Doctors could lose their medical licenses and face felony criminal charges if they are deemed to have performed an illegal abortion. If the exception stays in the final bill, definitive language with exhaustive details must be included so that doctors aren’t left trying to interpret a vaguely worded law during a medical emergency.

Also, as our state attorney general has already made national headlines for targeting a physician for performing a legal abortion on a 10-year-old, new abortion laws must be precise to protect physicians from unjust prosecution. Ambiguity in regulations over such a serious issue could lead to major consequences for doctors and their patients.

Even though Republicans enjoy a supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, they have struggled to find consensus on an abortion ban. State lawmakers, the vast majority of them men, might just be beginning to grasp the complexity of this issue and how hard it is for people to agree on an approach, even within the same political party.

Some of the proposals don’t align with the wishes of GOP voters. A widely reported poll of Indiana Republicans conducted by GOP Senate and House campaign committees showed a majority favored abortion exceptions. The poll also showed many Republicans think abortion should remain legal in Indiana for up to 15 weeks of gestation.

Hoosiers haven’t had opportunity to be heard on abortion, and it appears Indiana lawmakers are basing legislation on assumptions and stereotypes. They need to look at Kansas as an example of why that’s a bad idea. Voters in the traditionally conservative state overwhelmingly denied Kansas lawmakers the ability to further restrict abortion access when the question was placed on their primary ballot.

Indiana voters haven’t had a chance to cast ballots since the Supreme Court’s decision, so, we don’t know how this issue might affect voting outcomes in November.

Indiana lawmakers should pump the brakes and approach abortion legislation with patience. The issue is far too important to be rushed through so some elected officials can check a box ahead of their re-election campaigns.

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