TALLAHASSEE, FL – From the panhandle to the Florida Keys, cancer patients, survivors and advocates from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) met with their legislators this week in support of increasing funding for biomedical and early detection programs as well as raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21.
Florida currently carries the second highest cancer rate in the country, with 131,470 individuals expected to be diagnosed and 45,000 projected to die from the disease this year alone.
“When you consider the toll that cancer takes each year in Florida, it becomes our moral imperative to ensure we have adequate funding and evidence-based policies in place that allow us to prevent, detect and treat the awful disease,” noted ACS CAN Volunteer Dr. Karen Moffitt. “We need our lawmakers to make the health of Floridians a priority by passing strong policy that reduces the cancer mortality and incidence rate in our state.”
This upcoming legislative session, ACS CAN in Florida is asking lawmakers to increase funding for the state’s biomedical research programs to further solidify and expand their impact. Funded through the Florida Department of Health, these programs include the James & Ester King Biomedical Research Program, Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program and Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative.
Securing state dollars for early detection programs is also a priority. The Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides lifesaving cancer screenings to medically underserved women between the ages of 50 and 64 whose incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level. Since the program first received state money in fiscal year 2013, more than 132,500 women have benefitted from screenings and diagnostic services.
“We know that expanding access to timely screenings is crucial to beating cancer,” shared ACS CAN Volunteer Joy Finer. “Thanks to prevention and early detection initiatives like Mary Brogan, there are more than 1.3 million Floridians living today who have survived a cancer diagnosis – myself included.”
ACS CAN is advocating that the state fund Mary Brogan at a level equal to approximately one-half of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s current investment in Florida ($1.83 million) and that jointly the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program, each currently funded at $10 million, receive increased funding totaling $50 million.
As a public health organization dedicated to furthering effective tobacco control policies, ACS CAN is also endorsing bill SB 810, filed by Sen. David Simmons earlier this month. The introduced legislation would raise the age of sale for all tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 with strong retailer compliance measures, comprehensive definitions of tobacco products and clear protocol to enable active enforcement.
Ninety-five percent of adults who smoke began smoking before the age of 21.
“Raising the age of sale of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21 is part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to prevent our kids from picking up tobacco products from the start,” stated ACS CAN Volunteer Gloria Garcia. “SB 810 is a significant step in building a comprehensive and effective tobacco control strategy that prevents lifelong tobacco addiction.”
Research shows that states with established, comprehensive tobacco-prevention programs, including comprehensive smoke-free laws, tobacco control funding, regular and significant increases to tobacco taxes, and an increased age of sale, exhibit significantly lower state health care costs as a result of the reductions in smoking. To date, 18 states, the District of Columbia and at least 500 localities have passed laws to raise the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network 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.