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Report: Mixed Results for Oregon in Cancer Fight

About 5,500 Oregonians die from tobacco use every year. (Pixabay)
About 5,500 Oregonians die from tobacco use every year. (Pixabay)
August 9, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon's performance on fighting cancer is a mixed bag, according to a report released Thursday.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network's 16th annual analysis measuring states on cancer prevention policies says Oregon is falling short in key areas such as tobacco regulations.

Christopher Friend, Oregon government relations director with ACS CAN, says tobacco is the deadliest product on the market, and so it's imperative that lawmakers control it properly.

The report singles out the state's cigarette tax, currently at $1.33, which is below the national average of $1.75.

Friend says taxes are one of the most effective ways to prevent smoking.

"Most adult smokers want to quit, and that increase of tobacco tax is a really good reason to quit,” he states. “When it comes to young people, by increasing the cost of tobacco products, it's making it more difficult for young people to access tobacco products in the first place."

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, killing about 5,500 people a year.

Friend commends Oregon for last year raising the age to buy tobacco to 21. The report also says the state's expansion of Medicaid is helping reduce incidents of cancer.

But Oregon gets low marks for its spending on tobacco prevention programs. The state spent about a fifth of the amount the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends in fiscal year 2018 – about $8 million compared with the agency's suggested $39 million.

Friend says that leaves Oregon's children vulnerable to taking up smoking.

"Looking at how much the tobacco industry spends in Oregon compared to our prevention dollars, our state is outspent 13 to 1,” he points out. “That means that young people in the state of Oregon are almost constantly barraged with marketing from big tobacco companies."

The report also includes a pain policy report. Friend says it's important that cancer patients aren't vilified for their use of pain medications.

He says Oregon was one of the first states to implement a mandatory reporting database to prevent abuse of pain medications but that it's time for legislators to update that database.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR