LITTLE ROCK – Tomorrow, the Arkansas House Rules Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 1565. While this bill’s stated purpose, funding for the pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is laudable, it achieves this aim by undercutting effective tobacco control and implementing Big Tobacco’s legislative priorities. These measures include a woefully low tax increase on tobacco products that won’t impact tobacco use, preemption of local tobacco control laws, and language supported by tobacco companies to phase in an increase in the age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) opposes this bill because it does not implement evidence based best practices that would reduce tobacco use and lead to lasting cancer prevention.
The following statement can be attributed to Michael Keck, director of Government Relations for ACS CAN in Arkansas:
“ACS CAN is a strong advocate for cancer research. To have the opportunity to expand that research in Arkansas and at UAMS would be a dream come true–however, tobacco control policy should never be weakened in the effort to fund cancer research. Funding a cancer center without implementing policies that will prevent and reduce cancer in the first place is irresponsible. Our state incurs $795 million dollars per year in additional Medicaid costs because of the high rate of tobacco utilization, and one third of all cancer deaths in the state of Arkansas are tobacco related.
“Now, we have an epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, and studies show that kids who use these harmful products are more likely to try combustible cigarettes. The answer to this crisis is not providing tax or regulatory relief to Big Tobacco companies. Rather, we must create strong tobacco control policy at the state level that allows Arkansas to establish basic standards for our citizens without limiting the authority of county and municipal governments to pass laws to address the negative impact of tobacco that are stronger than state law. We should also implement a tax rate on e-cigarettes and all tobacco products that not only deters new users from starting and encourages current users to quit, but provides much needed revenue to improve the public’s health.
“Considering these principles, we look forward to working with members of the legislature to pass stronger—not weaker— tobacco public policy, to create a standard of tobacco policy for our state that doesn’t threaten local government control, and to establish a tax on tobacco products that will reduce Arkansans’ tobacco use, save millions in state health care costs, and help our communities truly become healthier. We are opposed to HB1565 and look forward to working with members of the legislature to find a better alternative to help fund the critical fight against cancer.”
About ACS CAN
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 www.fightcancer.org.