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MN Candidates Asked for Positions on Cancer Prevention

October 26, 2010

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. - Knowing just how far candidates will go to support health issues like fighting cancer isn't always easy to figure out. That's why the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS-CAN) is issuing its first-ever Minnesota voter guide. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Minnesota, with about 23,000 Minnesotans diagnosed every year, and another 9,000 who die from the disease.

Rebecca Thoman, who does field government relations for the Cancer Action Network, says that makes cancer an economic issue.

"It's also a significant driver of health care costs, and that's why we think cancer should be a priority issue, and there should be some focus from our gubernatorial candidates on how to prevent and reduce cancer."

The guide asks all three gubernatorial candidates their positions on two cancer-fighting policies: increased funding for the state's breast and cervical cancer screening program, Sage, and a tobacco tax increase. Thoman says that despite being given several opportunities, Representative Tom Emmer is the only candidate not to respond.

Thoman says the first question asked candidates if they were interested in continuing and increasing funding for the Sage Program, which has served the state's uninsured or underinsured low-income women since 1990.

"The Minnesota Sage Program is underfunded. We only currently serve about three out of five eligible women. This is an effort to help low-income women access mammograms, and it's present in every county across the state."

Each year in Minnesota, 5500 smoking-related deaths occur, and the state's annual health care costs related to smoking add up to a whopping $2 billion. Curbing smoking is a priority for the ACS, which is why Thoman says the candidates were asked where they stand on the issue of a cigarette tax.

"We know that lung cancer is the number-one cancer, it's the number-one cancer-killer, and we also know that tobacco is the number-one cause, so our efforts long-term have been to reduce smoking. We know that increasing the price of tobacco is really a proven strategy, especially among younger people. "

The current cigarette tax in Minnesota is $1.56, and the ACS would like to see that tax raised by at least a dollar.

To read the candidate's responses, visit www.acscan.org

Information on smoking and its economic impact:
www.tobacccofreekids.org

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN