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Report Finds Iowa Falls Short On Tobacco Prevention Efforts

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A report found Iowa is not doing enough to deter kids from using tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

Iowa is not doing enough to deter kids from using tobacco, according to a report by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The annual report ranks how well states are implementing policies to reduce cancer rates.

It gave Iowa low marks in tobacco prevention funding, cigarette tax rates, Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation and indoor tanning device restrictions.

Danielle Oswald-Thole, the Iowa Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in the past decade, the state has drastically cut funding on prevention programs and failed to raise the tax on tobacco products.

Higher taxes are linked to getting people to quit smoking and deterring kids from starting, she said.

"We haven’t passed a significant increase in the tobacco tax since 2007 when we passed a dollar increase," Oswald-Thold said. "So that’s over 12 years ago even though we know that that is an evidence-based policy that will save lives and save money."

Iowa's current tax is $1.36 for a pack of cigarettes, which is below the national average of $1.81 a pack. 

According to the report, more than a quarter of cancer deaths in Iowa are connected to tobacco.

"Fifty one hundred are estimated to die this year because of tobacco related illness and disease. Fifty five thousand Iowa kids alive today will die prematurely if we do nothing and we kind of continue the status quo," Oswald-Thole said.

But the report approved the state's policies on access to pallitive care, its smoke free laws and increased access to Medicaid.

Oswald-Thold said the Medicaid expansion, which state legislators approved several years ago, increased access to cancer care for low income Iowans.

"That was a big win for Iowans, specifically for cancer patients, and making sure that low income Iowans who hadn’t qualified for traditional Medicaid had access to care through our expanded Medicaid program," Oswald-Thole said.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter