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Report: Mixed Results for ND Policies to Reduce Cancer

North Dakota has some of the strongest laws against smoking in public spaces in the country. (extremis/Pixabay)
North Dakota has some of the strongest laws against smoking in public spaces in the country. (extremis/Pixabay)
August 5, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. — A new report assesses how North Dakota is doing when it comes to preventing cancer. The 17th edition of How Do You Measure Up? from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network looks at state legislative activity and gauges how lawmakers are supporting policies that reduce cancer.

The report said the state improved people's lives by expanding Medicaid.

Deb Knuth is North Dakota government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

"There is some polling out there showing that the states that have Medicaid expansion, such as North Dakota, they're seeing an improvement in the citizens' lives – ability to go back to work, perhaps, and certainly their quality of life has improved,” Knuth said.

According to the report, about 2.3 million people with a history of cancer rely on Medicaid. It also said North Dakota has good laws on the books banning smoking in public places and its tobacco prevention program is well funded.

While the state is doing well in some tobacco-prevention policies, Knuth noted it is falling way behind on its cigarette tax rates. North Dakota is one of two states that hasn't raised the rate since 2000. State lawmakers last increased the cigarette tax rate in 1993 – even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found tax increases to be an effective policy for stopping smoking.

"It does get adults motivated to quit because of the cost, and it also prevents youths from being interested in starting if the tobacco tax is high enough,” Knuth said.

She said the state needs to focus more on palliative care, which is specialized care that helps relieve a patient's symptoms, pain and stress from an illness. North Dakota also is one of 33 states that doesn't prohibit people under age 18 from indoor tanning – an avoidable risk factor for skin cancer.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND