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California’s cancer prevention, anti-tobacco policies coming up short



August 07, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

California is falling short on its legislative solutions to curb cancer, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).


The survey, released on Thursday, ranks each state based on the strength of its cancer-fighting legislation. Smoke-free workplace laws, indoor tanning restrictions on minors, and funding for cancer and tobacco use prevention programs are just a few of the things ACS CAN looked at to determine its findings.


For California, results show the state lagging in the areas of tobacco prevention funding, Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation and access to palliative care.


“Most states are failing to implement laws and policies that not only prevent cancer and save lives, but lower health care costs and generate revenue at the same time,” ACS CAN President Chris Hansen said in a statement. “By enacting evidence-based policies that encourage cancer prevention, guarantee access to affordable health care, curb tobacco use and improve patients’ quality of life, state lawmakers can create a legacy of better health.”


One of the biggest missed opportunities overall this year revolved around funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, with the fewest states meeting the survey’s benchmark in that category, according to ACS CAN.


Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the country, and its use is attributed to about one-third of all cancer-related deaths.


“Roughly half of all cancer death could be prevented if everyone were to stop using tobacco, eat healthy foods in moderation, exercise regularly and get recommended screenings,” Hansen stated. “Lawmakers play a key role in making this a reality.”


In an upcoming special session, California legislators will consider six bills supported by the California Medical Association as part of the Save Lives California coalition. The bill package aims to reduce the toll of tobacco-related diseases in the state. The bills would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, regulate e-cigarettes like traditional cigarettes and allow local jurisdictions to tax tobacco products, among other things.


Luther F. Cobb, M.D., CMA president, said the bills are “a tremendous step forward for a healthier California” and that they would “help keep tobacco out of the hands of our youth.”


Kirk Knowlton, M.D., president of the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate, called the package of bills “an opportunity California can’t afford to miss.”


“Smoking contributes directly to heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 5 leading causes of death for Californians,” Dr. Knowlton said in a statement. “The passage of this package of bills will have an immediate, life-saving impact by reducing the No. 1 preventable cause of premature death and disability.”


For the full ACS CAN report, click here.

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