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

State-By-State Report Shows Washington Must Improve Tobacco Control Funding to Reduce Tobacco Use, Cancer Rates

August 1, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash.—Washington falls short on 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 eight public policy areas and falls short in four other categories.

"This year alone, almost 39,200 Washingtonians will be diagnosed with cancer and about 13,000 residents will die from it," said Mary McHale, ACS CAN Washington government relations director. "We must do everything in our power to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment. This report provides lawmakers a legislative path forward to improve cancer prevention efforts, curb tobacco use, prioritize quality of life for patients and their families and increase access to critical health coverage."

ACS CAN is particularly concerned with Washington’s red ranking, or failing grade, for its extremely low level of state funding for tobacco prevention programs. The state spends only $1.5 million on programs to help curb tobacco use. This amount is just 2.4% of the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the 2020 legislative session, ACS CAN will work with Washington lawmakers to increase state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs by $16 million.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Washington and causes roughly 27 percent of cancer deaths in the state. It costs the state about $2.8 billion in annual health care costs. Comprehensive, adequately-funded tobacco control programs reduce tobacco use and diseases caused by tobacco, resulting in lower health care costs.

"Fighting tobacco effectively involves a complete approach we view as a 'three-legged stool' with strong tobacco tax increases, 100% smoke-free laws and fully funded tobacco prevention programs," said McHale. "Washington already has an above-average cigarette tax and a strong 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 eight specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer: increased access to care through Medicaid, access to palliative care, balanced pain control policies, cigarette tax levels, smoke-free laws, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, cessation coverage under Medicaid and restricting indoor tanning devices for people under 18.

Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in Washington state, but also millions in long-term health care costs and in some cases would even generate additional, much-needed revenue.

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. 

How Washington Measures Up:

Increased Access to Medicaid                                                 Green

Access to Palliative Care                                                          Red

Pain Policy                                                                                  Yellow

Cigarette Tax Rates                                                                   Green

Smoke-free Laws                                                                       Green

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding           Red                 

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services              Red

Indoor Tanning                                                                           Red

To view the complete report and details on Washington’s grades, 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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Senior Regional Media Advocacy Manager