Cancer Advocates Press Lawmakers for Action on Key Public Health Measures

February 18, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- February 18, 2009 -- Cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers across the country are meeting with members of Congress and holding public events this week to call for swift early action on three top advocacy priorities for the cancer community: FDA regulation of tobacco products, comprehensive health care reform and medical research funding.

During Congress' week-long President's Day recess, grassroots volunteers of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are holding district meetings with lawmakers from both political parties and participating in public events to show their support for critical legislation that will save lives by helping people fight cancer, which kills more than 560,000 people in America each year.

"Every one of the nearly 11 million cancer survivors in this country has a story to tell about how laws and policies impacted their fight against the disease," said Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. "We want lawmakers to hear these stories so they recognize the critical role government must play in the war on cancer."

A top priority of the cancer community is passage of legislation that would for the first time give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the strong authority to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products. The bill would put a stop to decades of fraudulent practices by the tobacco industry, which targets kids, women and minorities with deceptive advertising and whose products kill an estimated 440,000 people in America each year. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time last year with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority and had 60 U.S. Senators, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, as cosponsors.

Cancer advocates are calling for decisive action on health care reform early this year. The American Cancer Society has determined that the lack of access to quality, affordable health care is the biggest obstacle to defeating cancer, and ACS CAN is working to transform the health care system into one that elevates the importance of disease prevention and ensures that all Americans have health insurance that meets the Society's "4 As" for meaningful coverage: Adequacy, Affordability, Availability and Administrative simplicity.

ACS CAN is part of a major effort this month to call on members of Congress to pass nationwide health care reform. ACS CAN, Families USA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Service Employees International Union launched a targeted television advertising and direct mail campaign this week that is intended to add to the momentum behind health care reform.

The effort follows congressional passage earlier this month of a bill expanding the successful State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). ACS CAN and its partners are thanking members of Congress for expanding SCHIP and urging them to continue fighting to improve public health by making comprehensive health care reform a top priority early this year.

Cancer advocates are also asking lawmakers to commit necessary federal funding to medical research and prevention programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACS CAN is extremely pleased with the funding for medical research and prevention programs in the economic stimulus bill signed into law yesterday, but the nation's commitment to research and prevention must extend beyond a single infusion of funds.

Federal research funding has been frozen or cut for five straight years, jeopardizing our progress against cancer. Cancer advocates are telling lawmakers to continue the momentum begun with the economic stimulus package by boosting funding for NIH, NCI and CDC in the FY09 appropriations process, which will be Congress' focus after the recess.

"ACS CAN is building a nationwide grassroots army of cancer advocates who are demanding that lawmakers make cancer a top national priority," said Robert E. Youle, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board of directors. "By enacting strong tobacco control measures, improving access to quality health care for all Americans and making the necessary investment in cancer research and prevention programs, Congress and the president will help to reduce and eventually eliminate death and suffering from cancer."

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit

Steven Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711
Email: [email protected]

Alissa Havens
Phone: (202) 661-5772
Email: [email protected]

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