Iowa Falls Short on Tobacco Tax Rates, Cancer-Fighting Public Policies

August 1, 2019

Iowa continues to fall short when it comes to passing legislation that prevents and reduces suffering and death from cancer. According to the latest edition of How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality, Iowa failed to measure up to policy recommendations in nearly all areas of tobacco control, including cigarette taxes. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released the report today.


The 17th edition of the report assesses tobacco control within four issue areas: cigarette tax rates, smoke-free air laws, tobacco prevention and cessation funding, and Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services. Iowa only met the benchmark for smoke-free laws.


Iowa’s current tobacco tax of $1.36 per pack of cigarettes falls below the national average of $1.81-per-pack. No state tax comes close to matching the health and lost productivity costs attributed to smoking, which are estimated at $19.16 per pack.


“More than 1,000 kids in Iowa newly begin a tobacco addiction every year,” said Danielle Oswald-Thole, Iowa government relations director for ACS CAN. “We know that we can save lives by raising the state’s cigarette tax rate by a significant amount, but we’re still waiting for our lawmakers to make this a reality. Unfortunately, as the tobacco epidemic continues, we can’t afford to wait.”


How Do You Measure Up? rates states in eight specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer. 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 Iowa Measures Up:


Increased Access to Medicaid                                                Green

Access to Palliative Care                                                        Green

Pain Policy                                                                             Yellow

Cigarette Tax Rates                                                                Yellow

Smoke-free Laws                                                                    Green

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding           Red                                         

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services              Yellow

Indoor Tanning                                                                       Red


“This year, 17,810 Iowans will be diagnosed with cancer,” Oswald-Thole said. “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. This report provides lawmakers a legislative path forward.”


To view the complete report and details on Iowa’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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