House Committee Focuses on Public Health with Increased Tobacco Tax, Greater Access to Affordable Health Care
The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote today on legislation that if enacted would greatly improve public health.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Three pieces of legislation that reduce Minnesota’s cancer burden go into effect August 1st. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) commends the implementation of the new state tobacco 21 law, clinical trials as well as breast and cervical cancer laws to address the health inequities that contribute to higher incidence and mortality rates from cancer for the poor, communities of color and rural residents.
The tobacco 21 law raises the state minimum age of sale for all commercial tobacco products to age 21 and enforces strict penalties for retailers caught selling to youth. Nearly 95% of adults who smoke started smoking before the age of 21.
“While raising the minimum age of sale for all commercial tobacco products is a step to stall the youth tobacco use epidemic, we hope the legislature will work with the governor to continue to adopt policies that are proven to reduce youth tobacco use like increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products including mint and menthol cigarettes,” said Emily Myatt, ACS CAN Minnesota government relations director.
“There’s mounting evidence that menthol in cigarettes increases smoking initiation, leads to greater addiction and decreases successful quitting. Big Tobacco has used menthol cigarettes to deliberately and aggressively target African Americans, LGBTQ communities and low-income communities for decades. And their unscrupulous tactics have worked. While overall smoking prevalence has decreased over the past years, smoking remains highest among these communities. An end to the sale of menthol flavored tobacco products would help end a serious health inequity,” added Myatt.
The recently signed clinical trials law ensures Minnesotans on Medicaid have the same opportunities to participate in clinical trials as those enrolled in commercial plans or Medicare. Gov. Tim Walz and the legislature have taken an important step to guarantee the viability of new cancer research in our state and to allow an additional 18% of Minnesotans to have access to these new, potentially lifesaving treatments and therapies.
“More than 33,000 Minnesotans will be diagnosed with cancer this year but not all of them will equally benefit from medical advances in cancer prevention, early detection, diagnostic testing and treatment care,” said Myatt.
“The poor, communities of color, and rural residents are among those that continue to be under-represented in cancer clinical trials. This law tackles one of the main obstacles to participation, which is access. The type of insurance you have should not dictate whether you live or die,” she said.
The breast and cervical cancer new law removes barriers to care for women who are diagnosed with these types of cancers through programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control. This legislation makes these women eligible for Medicaid for their treatment if they have no other coverage options. ACS CAN worked closely with the American Indian Cancer Foundation to make sure that this legislation helps address health disparities for urban American Indian women.
ACS CAN is proud to have worked with the bill sponsors and thanks Senator Carla Nelson and Representative Heather Edelson for authoring Tobacco 21, Sen. Paul Utke and Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein for authoring the Breast and Cervical Cancer treatment bill; Sen. Nelson and Rep. Alice Mann for authoring legislation to expand access to clinical trials.
“We thank the legislature and governor for taking these steps and look forward to working with them to continue to reduce Minnesota’s cancer burden in the near future,” said Myatt.