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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."




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