New Report: Washington Falls Short on Public Policies to Fight Cancer

State-By-State Report Shows Washington Must Improve Tobacco Control Efforts to Save Lives

August 9, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash.—Washington falls short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce cancer, according to a new report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). The annual "How Do You Measure Up? A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality" finds the Evergreen State meets the benchmark in just three of the nine public policy areas, but falls short in four other categories.

Washington earned a "red" ranking or failing grade for its extremely low level of state funding for tobacco prevention programs. The state spends slightly more than 2 percent of the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Tobacco use causes significant physical, emotional and financial strain on our communities and families, and it’s also the number one cause of preventable death," said Mary McHale, Washington government relations director for ACS CAN. "In fact, 8,300 Washingtonians will die from smoking this year and more than 27 percent of all cancer deaths in the state will be caused by tobacco use."

Comprehensive, adequately funded tobacco control programs reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases, in turn lowering the health care costs associated with tobacco.

"Fighting tobacco effectively involves a comprehensive approach we view as a 'three-legged stool' with strong tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws and fully funded tobacco prevention programs," said McHale. "Washington already has a high cigarette tax and strong statewide smoke-free law, but we’re missing this final piece of the puzzle with funding our tobacco prevention efforts."

How Do You Measure Up? rates states in nine specific areas of public policy that can fight cancer, including increased access to care through Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs, smoke-free laws, cigarette tax levels, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, cessation coverage under Medicaid and restricting indoor tanning devices for minors. The report also looks at whether a state provides a balanced approach to pain medication and if it has passed policies proven to increase patient quality of life.

A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing in each issue. Green indicates 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. 

To view the complete report and details on Washington’s grades, visit 

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


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