California a Leader in Enacting Cancer-Fighting Legislation; But Critical Opportunity this Session to Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

August 1, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California is falling short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer according to a new cancer-fighting report released today. According to How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality, California measured up to policy recommendations in six of the eight evaluated issue areas, but showed opportunities to improve quality of life for cancer patients especially as it relates to access to pain management.

The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which is the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. The 17th edition of the report highlights what we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer.

“This year alone in California, nearly 186,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and, sadly, more than 60,000 will die from the devastating disease in 2019,” said Lori Bremner, ACS CAN California Grassroots Government Director. “We owe it to them—and to everyone at risk of developing this disease—to do everything in our power to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment.”

Improving Access to Pain Management

ACS CAN is cosponsoring a key bill this legislative session that would benefit cancer patients by strengthening reporting requirements for pain medications. By requiring pharmacists to report prescriptions they fill within a day vs. a week, this bill would help combat “pharmacy shopping” for opioids, restore faith in the system and help cancer patients and survivors get more immediate access to their pain management prescriptions.

Assembly Bill 528 would require pharmacies, clinics or other dispensers to report the information required by the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation Systems (CURES) database no more than one working day after a controlled substance is dispensed versus the current 7-day time period. The more efficient approach would prevent what can become frustrating delays for cancer patients when they can’t access pain medication due to a communication gap that often occurs in the statewide reporting system.

Addressing Youth E-cigarette Epidemic

This year’s report includes a special section examining efforts to stem youth tobacco product use by raising the legal age of sale for tobacco to 21. E-cigarettes have driven a dramatic 36% rise in overall youth tobacco product use over the last year. ACS CAN is concerned about what the U.S. Surgeon is calling a youth e-cigarette epidemic.  Menthol, fruit and candy flavored tobacco products are a key part of the tobacco industry’s strategy to bait youth into becoming tomorrow’s addicts. These products are luring youth into a potential lifetime addiction to nicotine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data recently showing e-cigarette use among high schoolers jumped an alarming 78% in the last year.

ACS CAN says it is pleased Assembly Bill 1639, which is being considered by lawmakers this session, would strengthen enforcement and increase penalties on retailers that sell tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to minors; but ACS CAN is strongly opposed to the bill because of a ‘Juul loophole’ that seeks to exempt mint and menthol from a statewide prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco at retail stores. Studies show that mint and menthol are primary drivers for youth tobacco uptake, so exempting the most popular flavors does little to address skyrocketing e-cigarette use. Besides increasing the possibility of addiction and long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, e-cigarette use is associated with the use of other tobacco products that can do even more damage to the body.

A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing in each issue. Green shows that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where states are falling short. 

How California Measures Up:

Increased Access to Medicaid - Green

Access to Palliative Care - Red

Pain Policy - Yellow

Cigarette Tax Rates - Green

Smoke-free Laws - Green

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding - Green                                      

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services - Green

Indoor Tanning - Green

“By passing laws that prevent cancer and help patients get the care they need, our lawmakers can save lives and money in California” said Bremner. “We stand ready to work with our leaders to build a healthier and brighter future for Californians and eliminate death and suffering from cancer.”

To view the complete report and details on California’s ratings, visit

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit


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