Despite defeat of harmful Tobacco 21 legislation, opportunities remain to strengthen tobacco control policies, increase access to healthcare, and improve quality of life for cancer patients
TALLAHASSEE – Florida ranks among the worst in the nation 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, Florida measured up to policy recommendations in zero of the eight evaluated issue areas.
“This year alone in Florida, over 131,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer,” said Heather Youmans, senior director of government relations for ACS CAN in Florida. “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 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. Florida was joined only by Mississippi in failing to “measure up” in any of the benchmarked areas.
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 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.
But state lawmakers’ good-faith efforts have been co-opted by the tobacco industry, who want to use these laws to advance policies that will interfere with effective tobacco control and protect their profits.
In fact, 55 out of the 88 age of sale bills introduced in 2019 included provisions that advance tobacco industry interests.
The special section draws attention to Big Tobacco’s dangerous agenda—including preempting local governments’ ability to pass strong tobacco control laws—and outlines the principles that make tobacco 21 policies effective.
“As Florida lawmakers work to protect our communities from tobacco’s deadly toll, they must reject any attempts to weaken or undermine effective tobacco control efforts and implement comprehensive policies that will prevent our kids from developing a lifelong addiction to tobacco,” said Youmans.
This year, ACS CAN worked hard to defeat a Tobacco 21 bill that was influenced by the tobacco industry and would have undermined the progress Florida has made in tobacco control, particularly with youth.
Next year, we look forward to focusing on those issues that truly have an impact on youth access and use, including appropriate licensing for all tobacco retailers and enforcement.
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.
How Florida Measures Up:
Increased Access to Medicaid – RED
Access to Palliative Care – YELLOW
Pain Policy – YELLOW
Cigarette Tax Rates – YELLOW
Smoke-free Laws – YELLOW
Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding – YELLOW
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services – RED
Indoor Tanning – RED
“We simply cannot rest on the current state of affairs. While we are fortunate to have two well-funded and successful state biomedical research programs, we must do more when it comes to cancer fighting public policy,” said Youmans. “By passing laws that focus on preventing cancer and help patients get the care they need, our lawmakers can save lives and money in Florida. We stand ready to work with our leaders to build a healthier and brighter future for Floridians and eliminate death and suffering from cancer.”
To view the complete report and details on Florida’s ratings, CLICK HERE