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May 3, 2012
TOPEKA The director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center today harshly criticized a House bill that would allow smoking in businesses where the customers and workers are over age 21.
“That is very bad public policy,” said Dr. Roy Jensen, addressing members of the Legislature’s bioscience caucus. “Tobacco cessation has clearly been identified as the No. 1 thing that we can do to improve the health of the citizens of the state of Kansas. Thirty-one percent of all cancers are directly related to tobacco exposure. We simply cannot go backward.”
The House is scheduled to debate House Bill 2690 on Friday. The bill has 13 co-sponsors and the backing of some in the bar and hospitality business who say their bottom lines suffered after the statewide ban became effective in 2010.
Jensen also blasted a resolution, HR 6026, that would direct the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to study whether smokeless tobacco is less harmful than cigarettes and whether state policies should encourage smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco products.
“I have a very succinct response to that: Hogwash,” he said. “And considering my Danish, dairy-farmer background, you should be glad I truncated it.”
He called the proposed study “a silly waste of everybody’s time.”
Jensen had been invited to update the caucus on the Cancer Center’s efforts to become accredited by the National Cancer Institute.
“We’re in the thick of it now,” Jensen said, noting that NCI surveyors spent three days at the KU Cancer Center in February.
Their findings, he said, should be released Friday.
“I think we’ve done a good job,” he said. “I think we’re going to make it. I’m cautiously optimistic. But even if we don’t make it, I think it’s just a matter of time before we make this happen.”
When the findings are released, Jensen said, the Cancer Center will be assigned a score. The NCI, he said, is likely to decide whether the score warrants accreditation sometime this summer.
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