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FDA proposes prohibiting menthol in cigarettes and flavors in cigars, restricting access to flavored e-cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration will restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to age-restricted stores, and move to outlaw two traditional tobacco products that disproportionately harm African-Americans: menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The proposed menthol ban would be the most aggressive action the FDA has taken against the tobacco industry in nearly a decade, but the proposal is likely to face a legal battle.

The agency also plans to require age-verification measures for online sales to try to ensure that minors are not able to buy the flavor pods.

The effort to cut off access to flavored e-cigarettes stopped short of a ban that the FDA had threatened in recent months as it sought to persuade e-cigarette makers like Juul Labs to drop marketing strategies that might appeal to minors. The agency said it would allow stores to continue selling such flavored products, but only from closed off-areas that would be inaccessible to teenagers.

In a statement issued in response to the FDA proposal, ACS CAN said: "The only way to begin reversing this epidemic is for FDA to use its full regulatory authority to conduct premarket review of e-cigarettes and cigars. Relying on partial sales restrictions to somewhat curb access of these deadly products is not enough."

Read ACS CAN's complete statement.

The FDA's long-anticipated moves are driven by startling new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a 78% increase in vaping by high school students, with 3.6 million high school and middle school students now using e-cigarettes.

"The bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, noting an "astonishing" surge in teen e-cigarette use that is reversing years of progress in fighting youth tobacco addiction.  "We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, to continue to build." 

Read Gottlieb's statement here.

  • ACS CAN to FDA: Stop sales of all flavored products and restrict marketing and sales to protect kids

    Media outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times, are reporting that the Food and Drug Administration plans to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes and the sales of most flavored e-cigarettes, except menthol and mint, at retail stores and gas stations across the country.  

    The proposal would have to go through the FDA regulatory process, and it could be several years before such a restriction took effect.

    Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency's commissioner, would not comment publicly on the proposal on Friday, but in an interview earlier this fall he said: "It was a mistake for the agency to back away on menthol." 

    Canada has already imposed a ban on menthol cigarettes, and the European Union's ban is set to go into effect in 2020. Earlier this year, San Francisco passed a prohibition against the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes.

    Below is a statement from ACS CAN, Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Truth Initiative:

    "Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes is long overdue and is one of the single most important steps the FDA can take to further reduce cigarette smoking and save lives in the United States. The FDA and Commissioner Gottlieb should move forward as quickly as possible to propose, finalize, and implement regulations to remove menthol cigarettes from the market. We urge the FDA to issue a concrete timeline for doing so.

    It is a positive step that the FDA recognizes the critical role flavors play in the skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes and is planning action to reduce the widespread availability of flavored e-cigarettes. But the details will be critical, and the FDA needs to go further. To reverse the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, the FDA needs to stop the sales of all flavored e-cigarette products that have not been subject to public health review by the FDA as the law requires.

    There is nothing to prevent the number of vape shops from rapidly expanding and there is no solid evidence that vape shops do a good job of preventing illegal underage sales. In addition, youth use of e-cigarettes is not limited to Juul and other pod-type products. Even before the introduction of Juul, e-cigarettes had become the most commonly used tobacco product among kids and research found that 81 percent of youth who ever tried e-cigarettes started with a flavored product.

    The FDA has reported that youth e-cigarette use increased by more than 75 percent this year and reached "epidemic" levels (the 2018 data is expected to be released soon). The FDA must respond with a comprehensive approach and mandatory regulations that apply to all manufacturers.

    In addition to stopping the sale of all flavored products, the FDA should 1) restrict marketing that appeals to kids; 2) prohibit online sales of e-cigarettes until stronger safeguards are in place to prevent sales to kids (The Washington Post reports that the FDA plans to impose age verification requirements for online sales); and 3) enforce current rules prohibiting the sale of new or changed products after August 8, 2016, without prior agency review and reverse its decision allowing e-cigarettes introduced by August 8, 2016, to stay on the market until 2022 without FDA review. This premarket review requirement is one of the FDA's most important tools to stop the introduction of products that appeal to kids, rather than dealing with them after they have become popular with kids, as in the case of Juul.

    The FDA has rightly declared that youth e-cigarette use is a public health crisis. The agency's proposed actions, as reported, are a positive step forward but not sufficient.

    Menthol Cigarettes
    We welcome reports that the FDA plans to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and urge the FDA to move forward quickly with finalizing the rule to do so. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse effect on public health in the United States, resulting in more death and disease from smoking.

    Action on menthol cigarettes is long overdue. A comprehensive FDA report on menthol cigarettes, issued in 2013, concluded that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. "These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol's cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to nonmenthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes," the FDA's report concluded.

  • Voters deliver clear message on health care

    300,000 more Americans to gain access to Medicaid; Big Tobacco spends millions to defeat lifesaving measures in Montana and South Dakota

    Christopher W. Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), released this statement following Tuesday's election:

    "Yesterday, voters from Florida to Idaho made it clear: fighting cancer is a top priority for the American people. By passing measures to increase access to health coverage through Medicaid, reduce the deadly toll of tobacco products, and preserve local governments' ability to implement policies that are proven to reduce cancer risk, voters have signaled their commitment to reducing cancer's burden and building a healthier future for our families.

    "In Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, voters secured a historic victory for the health and well-being of their communities by passing ballot measures to increase access to Medicaid. These measures will extend quality health care coverage to 300,000 hard-working people in every corner of Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. One in two men and one in two women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and access to health care is the biggest determining factor in whether or not they'll survive the disease. ACS CAN is proud to have fought to help families across these states gain lifesaving access to the affordable, quality health care coverage they need.

    "Unfortunately, Montana Initiative 185, a measure to increase the tobacco tax in order to fund health care programs for over 100,000 Montanans—including critical services like suicide prevention for our veterans—fell short after facing nearly $18 million of opposition spending by Big Tobacco. This disappointing result will leave low-income families across Montana without critical health care coverage. Research shows individuals without health coverage are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage when it is more costly to treat, and they're less likely to survive than those who are insured. While this loss represents a missed opportunity to fight cancer in Montana, ACS CAN must continue working to ensure every person has affordable access to the quality coverage that they need to live and thrive.

    "Big Tobacco dug deep into their pockets in South Dakota to defeat IM 25, a measure to increase taxes on cigarettes, failed to receive the support needed to pass after Big Tobacco spent over $6.5 million dollars in advertising against the measure. If passed, the measure was expected to save the state nearly $150 million in long-term health care costs and encourage adults who smoke to quit while discouraging youth use. ACS CAN is thankful for our determined volunteers who have worked tirelessly to address Big Tobacco's corrosive influence in South Dakota. This was a disappointing outcome, but cancer advocates will not stop fighting to reduce the deadly consequences tobacco use has on our families.

    "Florida voters advanced every Floridian's right to breathe clean, smoke-free air by passing Amendment 9 Tuesday. This ballot measure adds e-cigarettes to the state's smoke-free law to prohibit the use of these products in indoor workplaces, where smoking is already prohibited in the state's constitution. This move will protect workers and families from exposure to e-cigarette aerosol, which has been shown to be harmful, and put Florida on a path to a future where no person is forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. But in Missouri, the tobacco industry succeeded in deceiving voters to pass "smoke-free" rules in St. Louis and St. Charles counties that are nothing more than a smoke-screen; these measures are a cynical attempt to prevent effective smoke-free policies from being passed and implemented in these areas. It is imperative that we continue to fight weak, ineffective proposals put forward by the tobacco industry that fail to protect workers and families from the dangers of secondhand smoke and advocate for comprehensive smoke-free laws that protect every person's right to breathe clean, smoke-free air.

    "The sugary drink industry took a page directly out of Big Tobacco's playbook and tried to pass measures in Washington and Oregon to override local governments' ability to pass sugary drink taxes and help combat obesity and reduce cancer risk. While Oregon voters saw through the industry's attempt to preempt local governments, Washington unfortunately approved a similarly damaging measure. Sugary drinks are the leading source of added sugar in Americans' diets. Research shows children and adults who consume more sugary drinks gain more weight and excess weight increases the risk for 13 types of cancer. By preempting local officials' attempts to protect their neighbors from cancer risk, these measures being pushed by the beverage industry are directly impeding important attempts to fight cancer in our communities.

    "ACS CAN extends its deepest gratitude to the volunteers and the millions of families touched by cancer across the country who worked tirelessly to advance so many critical initiatives that will help to reduce the toll of this disease on our communities. While we may not have won every battle, Tuesday's results show that the American people are incredibly determined that state, loca, and federal officials do everything they can reduce death and suffering from cancer, whether by increasing access to health care, addressing the deadly consequences of tobacco use, or by preserving local governments' power to pass policies that protect public health. As a nonpartisan organization advocating for public policy change on behalf of families affected by cancer, ACS CAN staff and volunteers will continue our work to educate and engage returning and newly-elected lawmakers at all levels of government to protect, pass and implement proven cancer-fighting policies."

  • ACS CAN releases Cancer Disparities Chartbook

    ​Despite the fact that U.S. cancer death rates have decreased by 26% from 1991 to 2015, not all Americans have benefited equally from the advances in prevention, early detection, and treatments that have helped achieve these lower rates.

    On Oct. 17, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) released a publication that illustrates health inequities across the cancer continuum and highlights policies ACS CAN is pursuing to address the disparate disease burden.  

    Cancer Disparities: A Chartbook illustrates the scope of cancer disparities that exist in the U.S., including cancer incidence, mortality, and survival; access to insurance coverage; screening and early detection; and behaviors that may increase cancer risk. It also details how ACS CAN is actively pursuing evidence-based public policies at the local, state, and federal levels that aim to reduce these disparities and improve health outcomes for all U.S. population groups.

    Additionally, the chartbook highlights some of the greatest gaps and challenges, which will further guide ACS CAN in its public policy work. The publication includes more than 100 charts and maps detailing the extent of disparities across different populations. ACS CAN led the development of the chartbook, in collaboration with the American Cancer Society.

    Public policy interventions are a critical strategy for substantially reducing, and ultimately eliminating, cancer disparities. ACS CAN will share this chartbook with state and federal policymakers to show the level of health inequities that continue to exist across the cancer continuum and to highlight public policies ACS CAN is advocating to address this problem.  

    The report is available online at Hard copies are available for order in the RR Donelley catalog (listed as item number 872000) -- on Society Mart.

    A quick overview

    Research shows that racial/ethnic minorities and other medically underserved groups continue to have higher cancer rates and are less likely to be diagnosed early or receive optimal treatment compared to other groups. Individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) – income, education, occupation, etc. --  also suffer disproportionately from cancer and other disease burdens compared to individuals with higher SES, regardless of demographic factors such as race/ethnicity.

    The underlying causes of disparities in cancer care are complex and include interrelated social, economic, cultural, environmental, and health system factors. Geographic location (e.g. rural versus urban areas or northern states versus southern states) also contributes to disparities in cancer care.

    A few key facts

    • Among females, non-Hispanic Whites have the highest overall cancer incidence rates, but non-Hispanic Blacks have the highest cancer death rates. Importantly, while Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander women have among the lowest incidence and mortality rates overall, they have among the highest rates of certain infection-related cancers, e.g., liver and stomach cancers.
    • Among males, non-Hispanic Blacks have the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates overall, driven by high rates for the most common cancers (lung and bronchus, prostate, and colorectal). Similar to females, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native males generally have higher rates of cancers related to infections compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
    • Since the mid-1970s, cancer incidence and mortality rates for all cancer types combined have been highest among Black males, although this disparity is narrowing in more recent years. Among females, although incidence rates are slightly higher in Whites, death rates remain highest in Blacks due to disparities in cancer survival. The excess risk of cancer death (or percentage by which cancer death rates in one group exceed another) in Blacks versus Whites dropped from 47 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2015 among males and from 21 percent in 1997 to 12 percent in 2015 among females.
    • Reasons for differences in the incidence of childhood and adolescent cancers by race/ethnicity in the U.S. are not well understood. The cancer death rate is similar between non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic children, despite higher incidence rates in Whites. This is likely due to lower survival rates among Black and Hispanics compared to Whites.

    TOP PHOTO: This graph illustrates obesity percentage among children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, 2015 to 2016. Overall, prevalence of obesity among youths age two to 19 years was highest among Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic Blacks (NHB) (22%) compared to 14.1 percent among non-Hispanic Whites and 11% among non-Hispanic Asians. Prevalence of obesity in Hispanics and NHB is about twice that of non-Hispanic Asians.

  • Hispanic Heritage Month ends today, volunteers share their thoughts

    This week signifies the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed each year from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the history and culture of Americans who identify as Hispanic and/or Latino. Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the U.S., with 57.5 million Americans identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino in 2016, in addition to more than 3 million Hispanic Americans in Puerto Rico.

    At the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), we are committed to supporting and engaging with all communities in the fight against cancer, because we know that cancer does not discriminate and can affect anyone. However, the burden of cancer is not always shared equally. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics, accounting for 21% of deaths in 2016. Among other disparities, Hispanic/Latina women have the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence compared to other races/ethnicities, and Hispanic/Latinos are the least likely to have health insurance among any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.

    ACS CAN works to reduce these disparities by increasing access to affordable health care, protecting funding for early detection and screening programs and reducing the deadly toll of tobacco products across the country.

    To wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month, below we hear from two ACS CAN volunteers who engage with the Hispanic/Latino community as they dedicate time to advocating for cancer-related public policy.

    Dr. Mario Landera is an Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT!) Lead in Florida and has been an ACS CAN volunteer for three years now. As a resident of South Florida, he celebrates his community by attending festivals and learning about traditions from different Spanish-speaking countries. During his recent trip to Washington, D.C. as part of ACS CAN's annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, Mario participated in numerous radio and television interviews to discuss how he met with legislators on Capitol Hill to ask for support on several of ACS CAN's priority legislative issues. These interviews were played on Spanish-speaking media channels throughout Florida and picks up nationally, spreading the word on ACS CAN's efforts and engaging with the Hispanic/Latino community.

    "As an ACS CAN volunteer and Hispanic-American, I would like to take advantage of opportunities to educate those in my community about the importance of participating in cancer screenings," said Mario. "Furthermore, I would like to empower others to feel comfortable communicating with their legislators about cancer-related initiatives."

     In Mario's own words, "cancer affects all languages."

    Patsy Romero is also a dedicated ACS CAN volunteer, supporting the California team in the fight against cancer for the past 13 years. She participates in Hispanic Heritage Month events in her Bakersfield community each year. Patsy notes that there is a lot of potential for ACS CAN to engage with the Hispanic/Latino community in smaller cities:

    "I first want to grow my team with even more dedicated volunteers who want to make a difference in the wellbeing of the Latino community," Patsy said. "There's so much I would like to do in our Hispanic community. It's all about getting the word out to the right people in the community so they can see how important advocacy is, and how they and their families will benefit."

    ACS CAN will continue to celebrate, support and engage with the Hispanic/Latino community in our fight against cancer and work to reduce the burden of cancer across the nation.


  • Senate rejects resolution to halt short-term insurance changes and preserve patient protections

    On Oct. 10, the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution under the Congressional Review Act that would have prevented the extension and expansion of short-term limited duration health insurance plans (STLD) as allowed under a new rule from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury. 

    The rule allows insurers to issue – for up to 36 months – so-called short-term health insurance plans. Insurers can deny or charge people more for these plans based on their health status, are not required to cover essential health services, like prescription drugs, and can charge older people more than three times what they charge a younger person for the same coverage. Previously these policies were intended as “bridge” coverage to provide temporary insurance for no more than three months. 

    Although the resolution failed to pass the Senate, a lawsuit has also been filed in U.S. District court to stop the rule. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), along with several other patient advocacy organizations, has filed an amicus brief in support of the court challenge.

    A statement from Chris Hansen, ACS CAN president, follows:

    “Today the Senate missed an opportunity to protect health care coverage for cancer patients, survivors, and all those with serious medical conditions.

    “The final short-term health plan rule could divide the insurance market and weaken critical patient protections. By attracting younger, healthier individuals to these bare bones plans, the rule will likely upend risk pools that keep costs down for older and sicker individuals. By splitting the market, people who need comprehensive health insurance will likely find it far more expensive and potentially out of reach.

    “These short-term plans can set limits on how much they’ll pay for certain services or refuse to cover some services —like innovative cancer treatments or prescription drugs—altogether. Insurers can charge people more for coverage based on their pre-existing conditions or deny them coverage outright.

    “While these plans will likely have lower monthly premiums they will also leave enrollees with potentially inadequate health coverage if they are diagnosed with an unexpected illness like cancer and could lead to astronomical out-of-pocket costs to pay for care that is not covered.

    “Earlier this week, several patient groups signed on in support of a lawsuit to stop this rule, which effectively allows STLD plans to serve as replacements for comprehensive coverage in violation of current law.

    “Although Senators failed to keep their promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions today, we are hopeful the court will issue an injunction and uphold current limits on these inadequate plans.”

  • ACS CAN Monthly Advocacy Update

    Nearly 700 dedicated ACS CAN volunteers and staff from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico representing 397 Congressional districts gathered in Washington, D.C. Sept. 23-26 for the 12th annual ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. 

    Over the course of four days, the staff and volunteer leadership of ACS CAN's national grassroots structure, including the State Lead Ambassadors (SLA) and Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT!) Leads, along with their staff partners, received skills and issues training, attended grassroots workshops and delivered our priority legislative asks along with their personal cancer experiences to their federal lawmakers.

    Advocacy Training

    In addition to planning and executing a diverse series of events, ACS CAN's Advocacy Training team coordinated with national and field staff subject matter experts for an impressive selection of training which featured sessions such as:

    • "Advocating for Balanced Pain Policies Amidst the Opioid Epidemic"
    • "Expanding Your Influence: A Volunteer's Guide to Branching Out Beyond Friends and Family"
    • "Big Changes in Social Media Mean Big Opportunities for Volunteers"
    • "Opening Doors Through Community Engagement: How Can We Stand Out in an Age of Activism?"

    CAN Opener Enhances Fun and Funding

    On Monday evening, after a full day of advocacy training, advocates gathered for the annual CAN Opener, a fundraising dinner that provides volunteers and staff the chance to celebrate the numerous milestones cancer patients and survivors have reached because of grassroots advocacy. The event raised $54,000 through both individual support and corporate sponsorship.

    Advocacy Honors Presented 

    During the meeting, ACS CAN presented the annual National Distinguished Advocacy Award (NDAA) to Representative Nita Lowey (D, NY-17) for being a champion for increased federal funding of cancer research. An NDAA was also presented to Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX-10) to acknowledge his longtime support of our mission and for cosponsoring PCHETA and the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act. ACS CAN also honored two Virginians, Gov. Ralph Northam and State Senator Emmett Hanger, for their leadership in passing legislation to expand Medicaid in the commonwealth.

    The following volunteers and staff also received special recognition awards.

    • Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy – Maureen Mann, Board Member
    • State Lead Ambassador of the Year – Jacqueline Beale, Maryland
    • Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – CJ Heisler, Michigan
    • Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – Lorna Hill, Ohio
    • Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – Ashley Watts, Oklahoma
    • Emerging Leader Award – Emily Fain, Georgia
    • State Advocacy Team of the Year Award – Oklahoma volunteers & staff
    • ACS Partner of the Year – Coleen McKinstry, Sr. Manager, Community Development 
    • Alan Mills Award – Cathy Callaway, Director, State & Local Campaigns
    • National Professional of the Year – Brian Rubenstein, Sr. Director, Online and Digital Strategy
    • Field Grassroots Professional of the Year – Alyss Patel, Grassroots Manager, Arizona
    • Government Relations Professional of the Year – Heather Youmans, Sr. Director, Florida

    We also presented our annual award for outstanding service to a volunteer attorney as part of our Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI) program. Celebrating its tenth year, the JAI recruits lawyers to donate their services and legal expertise in mission-critical areas.

    This year's JAI award was presented to an attorney for work to help address the alarming surge in of e-cigarettes use by children and high school students. Kelly Dunbar of the law firm of WilmerHale, is our counsel in a lawsuit ACS CAN filed against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in partnership with other public health groups. The lawsuit's purpose is to compel the FDA to do its job and reinstate regulations on these harmful products targeted at America's youth.

    NCI Director Details Priorities for Cancer Research

    Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), shared with advocates his perspective on the importance of federal funding for promising cancer research projects and the future of cancer research. As leader of the nation's premiere cancer research establishment, Dr. Sharpless emphasized NCI's four primary areas of focus – basic science, workforce development, big data and clinical trials. He acknowledged that these four areas are not new for NCI but explained why he believes each can be leveraged to help advance cancer prevention, detection, treatment and cures.

    Coaches Rally Advocates for Capitol Hill Meetings

    Lobby Day itself kicked off on Sept. 25 with a rally featuring five members of the Coaches vs. Cancer, nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches that empowers coaches, teams and communities to help save more lives from cancer. Coaches in attendance were, Coach Steve Donahue of the University of Pennsylvania, Coach John Gallagher of the University of Hartford, Coach Chris Holtmann of Ohio State University, Coach Jeff Jones of Old Dominion University and former Coach P.J. Carlesimo who is now a television and radio broadcaster.

    In their remarks, each coach accentuated the uniquely powerful influence cancer advocates possess and each shared their personal cancer stories and committed to joining us to advance the interests of all cancer patients, survivors, and their families.

    Following the send-off, ACS CAN advocates departed for Capitol Hill where they participated in 497 meetings (including all 100 Senate offices and 397 House offices). More than 158 meetings were conducted face-to-face with members of Congress. Advocates urged lawmakers to boost research funding and to close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine screening colonoscopy. They also pressed their senators to follow the House by passing the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA).

    Members and staff enthusiastically received the advocates. Champions and cosponsors of PCHETA willingly agreed to go the extra mile to ask leadership on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to consider PCHETA before the end of the year.

    HOPE Shines Light on Lives Touched by Cancer 

    After a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill, volunteers and staff gathered at the Lincoln Memorial where more than 33,000 Lights of HOPE – the most in the event's eight history – illuminated the reflecting pool to honor cancer survivors and caregivers and in memory of loved ones lost to the disease.

    Dedicated volunteers and staff collected more than $330,000 toward Lights of HOPE – surpassing last year's total by more than $97,000. An additional $150,000 gift was made by the Celgene Corporation, the event's corporate sponsor.

    Celgene's Chief Executive Officer, Mark Alles, shared a story about the promise of research and innovation. A cancer survivor named Cherie, after 15 courses of therapy, was losing her battle with multiple myeloma. She bravely fought through incredible odds to gain access to a clinical trial where a new medicine was being studied. Today, approximately six months after this new treatment, Cherie's cancer is in complete remission and she is living a healthy and rewarding life.

    Attendees also heard the moving personal story of Maryland volunteer and State Lead Ambassador of the Year, Jacqueline Beale, who credited her status as a two-time breast cancer survivor to advances in early detection – in her case, 3D mammography. 

    Rep. Ron Young of Ohio attended the celebration as did Rep. Donald Payne of NJ, who addressed the attendees and assumed them that their voices are heard.

    Social Media Coverage  

    On the social media front, to date, volunteers and advocates have shared ACS CAN's hashtag #CancerLobbyDay over 3,200 times on Twitter and Instagram. This activity has generated nearly 10 million impressions. The hashtag #LightsofHope has been shared nearly 600 times with an additional 1.6 million impressions generated.

    Impressions are the number of times associated content is displayed on social media. These totals, which do not include Facebook posts, will continue to rise for a period of time after Lobby Day.

    ACS CAN Unveils New Website Address

    On Monday morning, ACS CAN announced its new website address – – with a short video that illustrates the reason we made the change. For quite some time, our former website address – – was a challenge for many of our stakeholders to pronounce and nearly impossible for the public to commit to memory. In short, the old address undermined our ability to draw visitors to our website. Additionally, the acronym – while brief – did nothing to convey ACS CAN's important legislative and public policy work. 

    The new website address is not only easier to pronounce and remember, it also more accurately captures the spirit of ACS CAN's advocacy work. We have long desired to move to this address, but it only became available recently. While our website address has changed, our actual website design and the content will remain the same.

    Lobby Day Events Draw Media Coverage 

    Media coverage for 2018 Leadership Summit and Lobby Day has been pouring in from across the country. Dozens of local media outlets are reporting on hometown advocates that took their fight against cancer to the nation's capital.

    On the Tuesday morning of Lobby Day, volunteers participated in a radio and TV media tour focused on targeted members of Congress. The 30 interviews that took place as part of the tour resulted in 60 airings with the potential to reach more than 1.3 million listeners in key media markets. We also had two TV crews follow volunteers up to the Hill as part of the tour. Highlights of the tour included stories on Univision,WTNH-TV in Connecticut, and  WNDU-TV in Indiana. Coach Chris Holtmann of Ohio State University was also interviewed by Ohio News Network about his participation in Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.In addition to the media tour, regional media advocacy staff have been successfully securing coverage in local outlets across the country including the Garden Island in Hawaii, WIBW radio in Kansas and the Big Horn Radio Network in Wyoming.

    As advocates return home, we expect to see many more letters to the editor and post-event articles appearing in their local media outlets, reporting back on their successful visit to Capitol Hill.

  • ACS CAN honors staff and volunteers for their advocacy efforts

    ACS CAN honors high-performing advocates who played a critical role in our legislative successes during the past year.

    ACS CAN is so grateful to all of our volunteers and staff for their work at the local, state, and federal levels. It’s because of them that we continue to make important progress toward ending suffering and death from cancer. Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners!


    Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy (VAEA) – This award is the highest national volunteer advocacy honor bestowed by ACS CAN.

    • Maureen G. Mann, ACS CAN Board treasurer

    Maureen has served on the ACS CAN Board since 2013 as the income development chair, Board secretary, and currently as the Board treasurer. She has been an active Florida volunteer for nearly two decades and was involved in the passage of many mission priority policies, including smoke-free workplaces, a $1 per pack cigarette tax increase and protecting funding for the state's tobacco control program.

    State Lead Ambassador (SLA) of the Year – This award is presented to a lead state volunteer who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in advocating for ACS CAN's area of cancer-related public policy.

    • Jacqueline Beale, Maryland

    Jacqueline has served as an enthusiastic ACS and ACS CAN volunteer for the past decade. As Maryland's leading volunteer, she has garnered support from members of Congress for top legislative priorities, including cancer research funding, early detection programs and a palliative care bill. 

    Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT) Lead of the Year – This award is given to a lead congressional district volunteer who has demonstrated remarkable leadership advocating for ACS CAN's areas of cancer-related public policy.

    • Ashley Watts, Oklahoma

    Ashley led the fight to ban all indoor tanning devices from minors in Oklahoma and implement sun-safe initiatives in cities all over her state, while simultaneously working to grow her state team and participate in local ACS and ACS CAN events.

    • CJ Heisler, Michigan

    CJ dedicates many weekends to attending ACS events and growing ACS CAN membership. His determination to develop a strong relationship with his member of Congress contributed heavily to the co-sponsorship of several pieces of ACS CAN's mission priority legislation. 

    • Lorna Hill, Ohio

    Lorna ultivated a strong, positive relationship with a state representative by testifying on behalf of and spreading awareness of Ohio's palliative care bill, helping to secure co-sponsorship on key priority legislation.

    Emerging Leader Award (new) – This award is presented to a state volunteer who has demonstrated an exciting promise in their start with ACS CAN by taking advantage of new opportunities to advocate for cancer patients.

    • Emily Fain, Georgia

    Emily has supported the fight against cancer as an ACS CAN intern, Georgia ACT Lead and decade-long supporter of Relay for Life. In each position, she supported and led her team with passion and determination. 


    State Advocacy Team of the Year – This award is presented to combined staff and volunteer teams that have worked together to make a significant impression in cancer-related public policy.

    • Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma team prevailed against a challenging political backdrop to secure a $1.00 per pack increase on cigarettes and protect state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The team of staff and volunteers utilized coalition-building, lobbying, grassroots and media efforts to quickly respond to multiple attempts to block implementation of the tax.

    Please check the Monthly Advocacy Update this week for more updates on Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.


    Field Government Relations Professional of the Year – This award recognizes a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to make a powerful, lasting impression in cancer-related public policy.

    • Heather Youmans, Florida Senior Government Relations director

    Heather has championed efforts year after year to increase state funding for early detection programs, and last year Heather led the Florida team and a partner coalition to protect state funding for tobacco prevention programs.  

    Field Grassroots Professional of the Year – This award is given to an ACS CAN staff member whose collaborative efforts further the achievement of advocacy-related mission goals.

    • Alyss Patel, Arizona grassroots manager

    Alyss  has strengthened the Arizona state team by hosting annual advocacy trainings and recruiting a diverse group of dedicated volunteers from every congressional district in Arizona. 

    National/Regional Professional of the Year – This award is presented each year to an exemplary staff member who has made significant contributions to the organization through their cancer advocacy work.

    • Brian Rubenstein, senior director of Digital Strategy

    Brian guides the strategy and training for ACS CAN's digital grassroots efforts, and was instrumental in developing the Ambassador Action Center, a multi-year project that advances our mission and further integrates our volunteer structure.

    American Cancer Society Partner of the Year – This award is given to a staff member at the American Cancer Society whose collaborative efforts with the organization's advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN, further the achievement of advocacy-related mission goals.

    • Coleen McKinstry, senior manager of Community Development

    Coleen has served as a senior manager with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for five years, taking every opportunity to promote ACS CAN's legislative priorities at her community events and attending Day at the Capitol events in Phoenix every year. 

    Alan Mills Award – ACS CAN's highest honor for advocacy staff, recognizes any current staff person who has consistently demonstrated leadership and excellence in the area of advocacy and public policy.

    • Cathy Callaway, director of state and local campaigns

    Cathy has spent her 15 years with ACS CAN navigating state and local legislative landscapes to guide, strengthen and champion ACS CAN's tobacco prevention policy program. During her tenure leading ACS CAN's tobacco control strategy, numerous communities have adopted comprehensive smoke-free laws and tobacco tax increases.

    PHOTOS: Pictured at the top is the ACS CAN Oklahoma State Advocacy Team of the Year, comprised of ACS CAN staff and volunteers, with ACS and ACS CAN CEO Gary Reedy (top left), ACS CAN President Chris Hansen (top, second from right), and Jeff Martin (top right), ACS CAN strategic director of advocacy organizational development & training. Pictured in the smaller image is Coleen McKinstry, senior manager of Community Development, our American Cancer Society Partner of the Year. 

  • ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day concludes

    Hundreds of cancer advocates asked Congress to make cancer a national priority

    This week, nearly 700 cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones traveled to Washington, D.C. for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network's (ACS CAN) annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, September 23-26.

    The advocates represented all 50 states and nearly every congressional district as they convened on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority.

    On September 25, ACS CAN's Lobby Day, volunteer advocates met with members of Congress to urge them to:

    • Increase federal funding for cancer research and prevention programs at the National Institutes of Health by at least $2 billion.
    • Support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (HR 1676/S 693), legislation that will support patients' quality of life by increasing access to palliative care.
    • Support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act (HR 1017/ S 479), legislation that will close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy.

    NCAA Division I basketball coaches Chris Holtmann of Ohio State University, Steve Donahue of the University of Pennsylvania, Jeff Jones of Old Dominion University, John Gallagher of University of Hartford, and former NBA and NCAA coach P.J. Carlesimo rallied the advocates as they headed to Capitol Hill for their meetings with lawmakers. The coaches are members of Coaches vs. Cancer®, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches™. 

    The coaches and advocates were joined by several representatives from the Gates Millennium Scholars program as part of its collaboration with ACS CAN, along with selected Gen2End Ambassadors and representatives of the Campus Leadership Team. A full list of these attendees is below. 

    In support of Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, ACS CAN coordinated a radio and satellite media tour on the morning of September 25.

    The ACS CAN Lobby Day ended with an evening Lights of HOPE ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool featuring 33,000 lights to honor those who have been touched by cancer. During the ceremony, Maryland State Lead Ambassador Jacqueline Beale, the ACS CAN lead volunteer for her state, shared her story of surviving cancer. The ACS CAN Lights of HOPE ceremony is presented by Celgene. Please follow @ACSCAN and #LightsofHope on Twitter to see live updates and photos from the event.

    Leadership Summit and Lobby Day concluded on September 26, with a keynote address from television personality and cancer survivor Matt Iseman, who also holds an MD degree.

    Gates Scholars: Briana Flatley, Juan Pablo Sanchez,Taylor Crawford, James Wagnon, Quentaxia Wrighting, and An-Angela Van

    Gen2End Winning Applicants: Upasana Arvindam, Tasha Jaramillo, Jada Kline, Matt Dexter, Shagah Zakerion, Zoe Hardy, and Dana Bernsen

    National Campus Team: Nathan Farnor – National Advocacy Chair; Caitlin Lackey – North Region Advocacy Chair; Megan Tunney – North Central Region Advocacy Chair; and Apurva Kanneganti – Northeast Region Advocacy Chair. 

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