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Report: States can do more to fight cancer

DULUTH, Minn.—Minnesota falls short in adapting measures that would aid in the fight against cancer, an advocacy group contends in a report released Wednesday, Aug. 8.

But that's not to say the situation is entirely bleak.

"We do get a 'green' rating on our tobacco tax," said Sara Sahli, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "We're really proud of our smoke-free air law that we passed 10 years ago this past July."

By "green" Sahli was referring to the nine benchmarks her organization established in the "How Do You Measure Up?" report. "Green" indicates the state has met the Cancer Action Network's criteria; "yellow" that it is making progress and "red" that it is falling short.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin get "green" marks with a per-pack cigarette tax above the national average of $1.75. In Wisconsin, it's $2.52, and in Minnesota it's $3.04.

But Minnesota is "green" in five of the nine markers. Those are middle-of-the-road numbers: Thirty states plus the District of Columbia fall within that range of three to five, according to the report.

But Massachusetts achieved "green" ratings in six categories and California leads the way with seven, the report said.

Minnesota was "red" in only one category: state appropriations for breast and cervical cancer screening program. Even that doesn't seem quite so bad in context.

Minnesota's spending in this area isn't as much as the Cancer Action Network would like, said

Ellie Beaver, Sahli's counterpart in Minnesota. But the Minnesota Department of Health's screening program, called Sage, does a good job of reaching women at all income levels, she said. There's at least one clinic covered by the Sage program in 86 of the state's 87 counties, and numerous clinics in larger counties.

A more pressing concern, Beaver said, is funding to replace the services offered by ClearWay Minnesota when it ceases to exist by the end of 2022. The agency, designed to help reduce smoking and cut secondhand smoke, was created as part of the 1998 tobacco settlement as a life-limited organization.

Picking up the gap likely would cost between $15 million and $20 million a year, Beaver said. But she noted that the state receives about $170 million a year from the tobacco settlement and invests less than 1 percent of that in preventing tobacco use and helping people quit.

"Looking at ways of capturing some of those settlement dollars that are still coming into Minnesota I think is a pretty valuable option as a way to pay for tobacco prevention and cessation," she said.

To learn more

See the "How do you measure up?" report at acscan.org/measure.