Utah Makes Progress on Cancer-Fighting Public Policies; Lawmakers Have Additional Opportunities to Save Lives and Money

Utah is falling short when it comes to supporting policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer.

According to the latest edition of How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality,  Utah measured up to policy recommendations in just 3 of the 10 issue areas ranked. The report was released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“We’ve made tremendous progress in the way we diagnose and treat cancer across the country. But to leverage this progress, Utah legislators must take advantage of the opportunities to pass evidence-based laws and policies that are proven to save lives and money,” said ACS CAN Utah Government Relations Director Brook Carlisle.   “In Utah alone in 2016, 11,030 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 2,970 will die from it. We can’t wait to take action when the stakes are that high. This report outlines ways lawmakers can make a difference by emphasizing cancer prevention, curbing tobacco use and prioritizing quality of life for patients and their families.”

How Do You Measure Up? rates states in 10 specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer. A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing in each issue. Green shows that a state has adopted best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where states are falling short.  See full report at:  www.acscan.org.

Utah made a significant improvement when it comes to protecting the health of Utahns and visitors when Mayor Jackie Biskupski followed through on her pledge to remove the smoking rooms at the Salt Lake City International Airport by the end of this year. Utah prides itself on having some of the lowest smoking rates in the country, but the airport was one glaring exception and ACS CAN thanks the mayor for making clean air a priority.  The U.S. Surgeon General has determined there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke with its 70 known or probably carcinogens and 7,000 substances including formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide and carbon monoxide.

Progress has stalled, however, and Utah remains “RED” with regard to meeting the benchmark on improving access to affordable health care. The Legislature rejected increasing access to Medicaid last session in a manner that would have provided comprehensive access to health care to all low-income Utahns below 138 percent of federal poverty level.  Many cancer cases and tragic loss of lives could be prevented by providing all Utah residents with access to adequate and affordable health care.

How Utah Measures Up:


Cigarette Tax Rates                                                                  GREEN

Smoke-free Laws                                                                         GREEN

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program Funding                  YELLOW

Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services                    RED


Indoor Tanning Device Use Restrictions                                    RED

Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Funding    YELLOW

Access to Care

Increased Access to Medicaid                                                   RED

Access to Palliative Care                                                           RED

Pain Policy                                                                               YELLOW

Oral Chemotherapy Parity                                                      GREEN

Another policy Utah volunteer ACS CAN advocates are educating policymakers on is palliative care to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. Palliative care is a coordinated, team-based approach among health care providers that does everything from providing emotional support to coordinating appointments and managing pain. It is proven to improve outcomes for cancer patients and reduce health care costs.