HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut is getting mixed reviews when it comes to supporting policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer, according to a new report.
But one area that the state continues to get failing grades in is in providing funding for tobacco cessation programs.
Connecticut was one of only two states that put no money toward a tobacco prevention and cessation program in fiscal year 2017. New Jersey was the only other state that failed to allocate any funds to their program.
“Comprehensive, adequately funded tobacco control programs reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related disease, which in turn reduces tobacco-related health care costs,” said Bryte Johnson, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Connecticut.
Since the state has yet to adopt a budget for the next two years, it’s not too late for Connecticut to consider funding these programs.
“By failing to allocate any funds to this program in Connecticut, lawmakers are leaving the next generation of Connecticut’s kids at greater risk of a lifetime of tobacco addiction — and preventing current smokers from having the resources they need to quit. All of this costs the state money — and it costs lives,” Johnson added.
According to its latest report, Connecticut did well in five of the nine issue areas ranked. The report was released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing on each issue. Green shows that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate improvement, and red shows where states are falling short.
Connecticut got “green” or good marks for its cigarette tax rate, Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services, increased access to Medicaid, breast and cervical cancer early detection programs, and access to palliative care.
Connecticut got “yellow” or a moderate grade for its smoke-free laws and pain policy.
Connecticut got a “red” or failing grade for its indoor tanning device use restrictions.
It received a failing grade for its failure to fund tobacco prevention and cessation.
It’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Connecticut spend $32 million on tobacco prevention programs.
But the state has a history of underfunding tobacco-prevention programs. Funding dropped to $6 million in fiscal year 2013, to $1.2 million in fiscal 2016, and to zero in fiscal 2017.
As part of his budget earlier this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for a 45 cent increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes — from $3.90 to $4.35.
Tobacco cessation issues aside, Connecticut fared pretty well overall in the report.
“This 15th edition of the report shows just how far we’ve come in the last decade and a half, passing policies proven to reduce suffering and death from cancer,” Johnson said. “But now is certainly not the time to rest on our laurels.”
This year alone more than 21,900 people will be diagnosed with cancer.
“We owe it to them and everyone at risk of developing the disease, to do what we know works to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment,” Johnson said.
Nationally, the report finds that increased access to health coverage through Medicaid is the most met benchmark, with 32 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, having broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover individuals under 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Smoke-free legislation is the second-most met benchmark with 26 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, considered to be “doing well.”