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Report: Washington falls short in policies to fight cancer

The grades are in, and they aren’t good for Washington.

A new report by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network found that Washington falls short in adequately funding its tobacco prevention and cessation programs to fight tobacco use and cancer.

The report grades each state on its legislative activity to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, based on nine public policies proven to help fight cancer. Washington meets the benchmark in just four areas, according to the report.

The biggest shortfall in Washington, according to the report: Tobacco prevention and cessation.

The report says Washington “woefully underfunds” its tobacco control program. In the 2017 fiscal year, the state spent $2.3 million on tobacco prevention and cessation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends $63.6 million.

“Tobacco use is our leading cause of preventable death, and this year, 8,300 Washingtonians will die from smoking while 2,800 Washington kids will become new daily smokers,” said Mary McHale, the cancer network’s Washington government relations director, in a news release. “It’s critical that we fully fund our tobacco control program so that people who want to quit can be successful, while also deterring our kids from starting this addiction.”

Washington also came up short with its Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation, indoor tanning restrictions for minors, breast and cervical cancer screening funding and palliative care services.

The report wasn’t all bad, though. Washington hit the benchmarks for cigarette tax rates, smoke-free laws, pain policies and increased access to Medicaid.

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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