American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Announces New Leadership and Legislative Priorities for 2007

December 15, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- December 15, 2006 -- The American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) today took a major step in its landmark effort to build a nationwide cancer movement, unveiling its 2007 federal legislative agenda to elevate the cancer fight to the top of the nation’s priority list and announcing the appointment of Daniel E. Smith as its President.

ACS CAN, founded in 2001 as the sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, is dedicated to enacting policies that will help to win the war on cancer by engaging elected officials, policymakers and the public on government’s critical role in the cancer fight. The appointment of Smith as ACS CAN’s first full-time president signals the 93-year-old Society’s recognition of advocacy’s increased importance to winning the war on cancer.

That emphasis was on display in September, when ACS CAN hosted Celebration on the Hill 2006, which brought more than 10,000 cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and supporters to the National Mall to meet with their Members of Congress. That event resulted in more than 340 members signing ACS CAN’s Congressional Cancer Promise, which outlines legislative proposals to put the country back on track toward winning the war on cancer.

In addition, ACS CAN conducted targeted electoral activity and voter education campaigns in federal and state races around the 2006 elections, just as it had in 2004.

“The war on cancer will not be won without the strong commitment of government at all levels,” Smith said. “This country has made impressive progress against cancer in recent years, but we risk reversing that trend if elected officials and policymakers retreat from the fight. ACS CAN is mobilizing those who have been touched by cancer to demand that public officials make this fight the highest priority. This is about saving lives.”

ACS CAN’s legislative agenda for the 110th Congress includes encouraging lawmakers to sign the Congressional Cancer Promise and giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco. At the state level, ACS CAN will be continuing its nationwide efforts to create smoke-free environments and enact strong tobacco control policies, as well as ensuring insurance coverage for a wide range of evidence-based cancer screenings.

ACS CAN’s Congressional Cancer Promise outlines proposals to elevate the importance of lifesaving prevention and early detection programs, boost the nation’s commitment to groundbreaking research and expand access to quality cancer care among the underserved. The Promise commits lawmakers to:

  • Expanding access to quality cancer care, such as through the successful National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). The program, which provides breast and cervical cancer screenings to low-income, underinsured and uninsured women, has had enough funding to serve only 1 in 5 eligible women. The Promise seeks Members’ support for renewal and expansion of the program to serve thousands more eligible women nationwide.
  • Strengthening the country’s commitment to medical research. The Promise asks lawmakers to back a minimum budget increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of 5 percent per year.
  • Increasing the importance of prevention and early detection programs, such as by eliminating costly co-pays for colorectal and breast cancer screenings in Medicare and extending from six months to one year the time allowed for new Medicare enrollees to take advantage of the Welcome to Medicare visit.
  • Making health system reform a priority with comprehensive, bipartisan solutions that address gaps in access to quality care, a major impediment to our ability to win the war on cancer.

ACS CAN will also be pushing hard in the new Congress for FDA regulatory authority over tobacco and tobacco products. Because tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, or approximately 435,000 lives annually, ACS CAN will work to give the FDA the authority to:

  • Restrict advertising and promotions aimed at children, and illegal sales to children
  • Require changes in products to make them less harmful and less addictive
  • Require disclosure of ingredients and tobacco industry research, and prohibit unsubstantiated health claims on “reduced risk” products such as low tar cigarettes
  • Require that larger, more informative warnings be placed on tobacco products

ACS CAN’s focus at the state and local level is on enacting strong smoke-free laws that protect all workers from deadly secondhand smoke and raising tobacco excise taxes that discourage tobacco users from buying tobacco products. ACS CAN is leading the nationwide movement for smoke-free air by devoting staff, volunteers and resources to tobacco control efforts in states and communities across the country.

ACS CAN is also working with state governments to guarantee insurance coverage of cancer screenings and treatment programs. The organization has been successful in recent years at strengthening screening and treatment programs for breast,cervical and colorectal cancers. This spring ACS CAN led the successful opposition to Small Business Health Plan legislation, which put state coverage guarantees at risk.

As the new President of ACS CAN, Smith will oversee all its work and its expansion efforts. Smith played a lead role in the creation of ACS CAN as the Society’s national vice president of government relations, a position he held for six years before ascending to his current role. He founded and leads One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC), a coalition of more than 40 cancer-related groups that has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in federal Cancer Research Funding. Prior to joining the Society, Smith spent 10 years on Capitol Hill working for Senator Tom Harkin (DIowa), four of those years as his chief of staff.

“Each day, 1,500 people die from cancer,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of both the Society and ACS CAN. “Under Dan’s leadership, ACS CAN will inspire more Americans to take a stand with their lawmakers and convince them to pass strong laws that help us fight cancer to the immeasurable benefit of our nation.”

“Dan has been a highly effective leader in helping to take cancer advocacy to a new level,” said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board.

“His knowledge of and passion for the cause will make him an excellent president of ACS CAN.”

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society. ACS CAN is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major public health problem through voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer. ACS CAN does not endorse candidates and is not a political action committee (PAC). For more information, visit

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