AUSTIN, TEXAS (KXAN) — Tobacco use continues to be a leading contributor to cancer and death here in Texas, but a new report out Thursday morning by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy affiliate, titled How do you measure up?” shows Texas is a leader in the nation when it comes to preventing the disease. Texas did well when it comes to funding research, since the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute is located in Austin — operating with $3 billion in state funding.
But the report also found when it comes to tobacco laws, state lawmakers fall short by their lack of cigarette tax increases, not making 100-percent smoke-free laws, Medicaid not covering tobacco treatment programs, and the lack of state funding for tobacco prevention programs. Texas ranks 38th out of 50 states in funding.
The study did find Texas performed well at preventing minors from using tanning beds and covering preventative screenings for cervical and breast cancers, but the majority of the annual report focuses on tobacco use. It states lung cancer is the most common form of cancer and the No. 1 cause of death in Texas, but it’s also the most preventable.
“There are more people who die because of tobacco than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, murders, suicides, all of that combined. More people die from tobacco,” said Texas Government Relations Director Cam Scott, with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
The report found state lawmakers are doing a poor job of funding tobacco prevention programs. For example, the Centers for Disease Control recommends $266 million for these types of programs but Texas only provides about $6.5 million. And this group believes there’s money available.
“We receive close to $2 billion annually in tobacco-generated revenues from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. By just putting a small portion of that to tobacco prevention, we could save thousands of lives, and it’s an easy step the Legislature could take,” said Scott.
The report also examines the link between cancer and lack of physical activity. The report states that one-quarter to one-third of all cancers are tied to poor nutrition or low physical activity and recommends lawmakers increase the amount of physical activity required by schools. In Texas, the requirement is less than 90 minutes per week.
The annual report is timed to come out so that lawmakers will see it prior to the session starting next year. That way, they have time to consider funding for programs that can prevent and treat cancer.