Cancer Experts say Iowa is Falling Behind in Tobacco Use Prevention

DES MOINES, Iowa --An annual report was released on Thursday, revealing how states stack up when it comes to legislative policy aimed at fighting cancer.

The Cancer Action Network, part of the American Cancer Society, says that Iowa is doing well in the areas of palliative care and access to Medicaid.

“One of the really fundamental issues in cancer control is making sure everyone has access to healthcare. If you don’t have access to healthcare it doesn't matter how many good treatments you have, you're going to fall through the cracks and cancer is going to be a huge burden,” said Dr. Richard Deming, Medical Director of the Mercy One Cancer Center

The report says that the state is falling behind when it comes to tobacco prevention. Iowa is $0.45 below the national average when it comes to the tax on a pack of cigarettes. Dr. Deming says Iowa hasn't raised the tax in years, it is beginning to show.

“Back in 2007-2008 we had increased the tax; we were also spending about $12 million as a state to help with prevention and smoking cessation. That tobacco control in the state of Iowa has reduced down to four million a year, and as a result just last year we've seen an increase in the number of smokers in Iowa,” said Deming.

Statistics from the American Cancer Society show that as the price of cigarettes go up, the amount of sales goes down. However, in order to make a difference the tax needs to be raised a considerable amount. A bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by 10 members of the Iowa House waits for the 2020 legislative session and would raise the cigarette tax by a $1.50 per pack.

“If you only increase it a modest amount, research shows that the tobacco industry comes into the state and hands out coupons and discounts so it doesn't really force a decrease in the use. So, we support at least a dollar a pack increase in tax,” said Deming.

Iowa is in the top half of states when it comes to the rate of lung cancer, and Dr. Deming says the state spends 1.2 billion dollars in tobacco related healthcare each year.

“Reducing the consumption of tobacco would not only save lives, make Iowa healthier, it would also save a lot of money,” he said.

Raising the tax by $1.50 would bring the total tax to $2.86 cents per pack. That would be the 12th highest rate in the nation.

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