While Middle Tennessee is often on the forefront of cancer research, all the news from the state isn't good. According to a report released this summer, Tennessee is falling short when it comes to implementing policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer. The information is in the latest edition of "How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality."
"This report shows that we must do more to reduce suffering and death from cancer. But we have the power to make a difference for Tennesseans immediately by implementing proven cancer-fighting policies," said Emily Ogden, Tennessee government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). "This year alone in Tennessee, 37,250 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 32.9 percent of cancer deaths in Tennessee are attributed to smoking. We owe it to them and everyone at risk of developing the disease, to do what we know works to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment."
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 percent rise in 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 kids. The special section draws attention to the tobacco industry's latest efforts - including preempting local governments' ability to pass strong tobacco control laws - and outlines the principles that make tobacco 21 policies effective.
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. Tennessee achieved a green arrow for access to palliative care and yellow for pain policy. In all other areas, the state is falling short.
ACS CAN is calling on lawmakers to join us in the fight to prevent cancer by passing comprehensive legislation that will raise the age of sale for tobacco in Tennessee from 18 to 21. This public health initiative could help protect youth from a lifelong addiction to tobacco.
"As advocates, we have the opportunity to work with our Tennessee legislators on implementing policies and programs that prevent and treat cancer," said Michael Holtz, state lead ambassador, ACS CAN. "Together, we can build stronger, healthier communities and ensure Tennesseans have access to measures that prevent disease before it occurs, ultimately saving more lives from cancer."
To view the complete report and details on Tennessee's grades, visit www.fightcancer.org/measure.