North Dakota Falling Short Enacting Cancer-Fighting Legislation
State Lawmakers Have Opportunities to Save Lives and Money by Improving Access to Affordable Health Coverage and Implementing Effective Tobacco Control and Quality of Life Measures.
BISMARCK, North Dakota - August 1, 2019 - North Dakota is falling short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce 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, North Dakota measured up to policy recommendations in just three of eight evaluated issue areas. The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which is the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. The 17th edition of the report highlights what we must do more of to reduce suffering and death from cancer.
"This year alone in North Dakota, 3,940 people will be diagnosed with cancer and, sadly, 1,280 will die from the devastating disease in 2019," said Deb Knuth, ACS CAN North Dakota Government Relations Director. "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 improve cancer prevention efforts, curb tobacco use, prioritize the quality of life for patients and their families and increase access to critical health coverage."
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.
This year's report includes a special section examining efforts to stem youth tobacco product use by raising the legal age of sale for tobacco to 21. E-cigarettes have driven a dramatic 36% rise in overall youth tobacco product use over the last year - and in statehouses across the country, policymakers have prioritized efforts to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our kids, introducing 88 bills that raised the age of sale for tobacco products.
Knuth is concerned about what the U.S. Surgeon General is calling a youth e-cigarette epidemic. She sees the problem close to home in North Dakota. Menthol, fruit and candy flavored tobacco products are a key part of the tobacco industry's strategy to bait youth into becoming tomorrow's addicts. These products are luring youth into a potential lifetime addiction to nicotine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data in February showing e-cigarette use among high schoolers jumped an alarming 78% in the last year.
Knuth says it is also important to continue fighting to preserve North Dakota's strong smoke-free laws, which are the only effective way to protect all workers and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke. North Dakota's smoke-free law includes e-cigarettes but there have been attempts to weaken protections by exempting cigar bars. Smoke-free laws help de-normalize smoking, which research shows helps reduce youth tobacco use and helps support adults who are trying to quit.
Passing and implementing the policy recommendations in the report would not only save lives in North Dakota, but also save millions in long-term health care costs and in some cases would even generate additional, much needed revenue.
A color-coded system classifes 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 North Dakota Measures Up:
Increased Access to Medicaid Green
Access to Palliative Care Red
Pain Policy Red
Cigarette Tax Rates Red
Smoke-Free Laws Green
Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding Green
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services Yellow
Indoor Tanning Red
"By passing laws that prevent cancer and help patients get the care they need, our lawmakers can save lives and money in North Dakota,' said Knuth. "We stand ready to work with our leaders to build a healthier and brighter future for North Dakotans and eliminate death and suffering from cancer."
Nationally, the report finds that increased access to health coverage through Medicaid is the most met benchmark, with 35 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, having broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($17,236 a year for an individual and $35,535 for a family of four). Smoke-free legislation is the second-most met benchmark with 27 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, considered "doing well'.
To view the complete report and details on North Dakota's ratings, visit www.fightcancer.org
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 crtical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.