ATLANTA – The Georgia state legislature is contributing to the state’s cancer burden by failing to implement evidence-based policies designed to fight cancer, according to a report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Georgia earned a “green” rating in only two of nine categories examined in the annual How Do You Measure Up? report. Only six states achieved fewer top ratings.
Recognizing that 56,920 Georgians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and 17,730 are projected to die from the disease, implementing the nine evidenced-based public health policies detailed in the report would curb the human and financial toll of cancer in the state. These policies are designed to tackle tobacco use, encourage healthy behaviors and improve access to health screenings and treatment.
“Georgia must do better at enacting effective policies to prevent, detect and treat cancer,” said Andy Freeman, government relations director for ACS CAN in Georgia. "We have ample evidence to prove these policies work so it is essential our elected officials set aside partisan differences and put the health of Georgians at the forefront.”
Georgia’s biggest opportunity to save lives and reduce health care costs would be increasing the price of tobacco products by $1.50 or more per pack of cigarettes. Georgia’s current excise tax of 37 cents has not been increased since 2003 and only two states have a lower tax. The national average as of July 1, 2018 is $1.75 per pack.
During the 2018 legislative session, Rep. Ron Stephens (Savannah) introduced a bill to increase the tobacco excise tax in Georgia by $1.50 per pack. While the bill never came up for consideration, it was projected to reduce the youth smoking rate by 16.2 percent, prevent 29,200 premature deaths due to smoking and save the state about $2.12 billion in long-term health care costs. The tax increase also would have generated about $460.82 million in new revenue for the state.
Research has proven there are two other evidenced-based policy solutions which can reduce the use of tobacco products. These include implementing a statewide comprehensive smoke-free policy and fully funding and implementing statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs in accordance with best practice recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, Georgia received the lowest ratings in both categories. In fact, Georgia is one of only 6 states that provides no funding at all for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
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. On categories relating to funding, a black designation is assigned to states that provide no funding.
How Georgia Measures Up:
Cigarette Tax Rates Red
Smoke-free Laws Red
Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding Black
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services Yellow
Indoor Tanning Device Use Restrictions Red
Increased Access to Medicaid Red
Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Funding Green
Access to Palliative Care Green
Pain Policy Yellow
To view the complete report and details on each state’s grades, visit www.fightcancer.org/measure.
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 www.fightcancer.org.
# # #