WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Nearly 80,000 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with cancer this year. It points to the importance of improved access to screenings and treatment. But is the Commonwealth doing enough to curb the cancer numbers?
In a word: no according to a report released Thursday. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, while it shows Pennsylvania has made progress it concludes the Commonwealth must do more to reduce cancer-related suffering and death.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s 17th edition of “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality” finds the news isn’t all bad for Pennsylvania.
“You know there are some areas we’re doing well. Access to Medicaid, cigarette tax rates,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Pennsylvania Government Relations Director Emma Watson.
But the report finds the Commonwealth lacks in six of eight evaluated issue areas to reduce the burden of cancer in the community. One of the biggest? Eliminating smoking in public places which Pennsylvania lawmakers addressed in 2008 by passing the Clean Indoor Air Act.
“It was a step in the right direction however there were many exemptions in that law,” said Ms. Watson.
Those exemptions include casinos, private clubs, and some bars. Ms. Watson said, “So our concern is really for employees who are working in these establishments, eight-hour shifts, ten-hour shifts, breathing in second-hand smoke.”
While Pennsylvania lawmakers may try to strike a balance between expanding the Clean Indoor Air Act and allowing businesses to conduct themselves as they see fit, Ms. Watson said, “There has never been an independent study that has shown a negative impact on the hospitality industry from clean indoor air laws.”
Another key area in which Pennsylvania falls short in the report is tobacco prevention and cessation program funding to which Ms. Watson responded, “Comprehensive, adequately funded tobacco cessation programs really make a difference when it comes to rates of use, when it comes to reducing tobacco related disease.”
Besides saving lives, Ms. Watson says more program funding will save Pennsylvania millions of dollars in long-term health care costs. “So while we are happy when there are not cuts to these programs, we would love to see a bigger investment.”
The ACS CAN report also puts Pennsylvania in a poor light for its indoor tanning regulations. Click here to see how the Commonwealth rates in other evaluation areas and to check out the complete report.