BOSTON – Massachusetts Rep. Danielle Gregoire and Massachusetts Sen. John Keenan each received the National Distinguished Advocacy Award this week, the most prestigious award presented by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), in recognition of their significant contributions to the fight against cancer. Both were recognized for their role as champions of first-in-the-nation legislation that prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol flavors, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars, in the Commonwealth.
ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, presents the annual award to select lawmakers who demonstrate outstanding leadership in the area of cancer-related public policy advocacy.
“Both Sen. Keenan and Rep. Gregoire exemplify what it means to be passionate advocates for public health,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Their bicameral collaboration and commitment to advancing lifesaving legislation is a testament to their deep commitment to protecting youth and Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities that are disproportionately impacted by the burden of tobacco use. It’s thanks to their unwavering determination that future generations will be protected from a lifetime of tobacco addiction.”
In 2019, Sen. Keenan and Rep. Gregoire teamed up with public health advocates to file a bill that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the Commonwealth. After endlessly lobbying their colleagues, defeating countless amendments that would have weakened the legislation, the pair garnered overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill. Their efforts resulted in the passage of the first in the nation legislation to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, anywhere in Massachusetts.
“We are fortunate to have two incredible legislators on our side in the fight against Big Tobacco,” said Marc Hymovitz, director of Government Relations for ACS CAN in Massachusetts. “To say Sen. Keenan and Rep. Gregoire were a passionate about this issue is an understatement – they were nothing short of legislative champions and key to our victory in keeping flavored tobacco out of the hands of Massachusetts’ kids, our minority communities, and other targeted groups.”
“The fact that no other state had passed a similar bill at the time shows the difficulty in taking on Big Tobacco on flavors. It took a unique level of perseverance and dedication at the legislative level to pass this bill, and we are grateful for Sen. Keenan and Rep. Gregoire for leading those efforts across the House and Senate.”
The award was presented on Sept. 15 as part of the annual ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. Nearly 700 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones met virtually with their elected officials to urge them to support policies that increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs and address barriers that prevent diverse populations from enrolling in clinical trials.
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.