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Oct. 5, 2012
TOPEKA Members of the Kansas Cancer Partnership met today to discuss how to implement a new five-year plan to prevent and control the disease.
Several agreed that a priority should be protecting the state’s indoor smoking ban from what they anticipate will be another attempt to repeal or weaken the law in 2013 by a more conservative Legislature.
“We’re certainly aware that the attack might come and we’re trying to be prepared for it in case it does” said Chris Masoner, Kansas governmental affairs director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
More Kansans die from lung cancer than any other form of the disease. Breast cancer ranks second among women, prostate cancer among men.
Masoner said moderate Republicans who controlled the Senate for the past several years acted as a “backstop” to more conservative House members who wanted to repeal or modify the ban, which they said infringed on the rights of business owners. He said the defeat of several of those moderate senators in the August primary has supporters of the law concerned.
“We’re concerned that (the backstop) won’t be there anymore and there may be some renewed efforts to attack the law,” Masoner said.
Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Department of Health and Environment, said he supports the smoking ban.
“Kansas is definitely leading the way by having the Clean Indoor Air Act,” Moser said.
Masoner said Moser’s support of the law was important, but he said it was unclear the extent to which Gov. Sam Brownback supports the ban or how much he would allow Moser and KDHE to push back if legislators attempt to repeal it.
“I would like to talk to the governor about it, frankly,” Masoner said. “The policy position that it seems like he’s coming from plays into the business rights argument. So, if a bill weakening the law would get through the House and the Senate, we’re not sure that he (Brownback) wouldn’t sign it.”
Several who spoke at Friday’s meeting said the success of efforts to curb cancer diagnoses and deaths would depend on whether Kansans can be motivated to change behaviors that put them at risk. That means finding ways to push smoking and tobacco-use rates lower and physical activity rates higher while also convincing Kansans to eat healthier.
Data compiled in 2010 by KDHE found that two of every three Kansas adults were overweight or obese. Statistics from 2009 indicated more than a third of Kansans were not active enough to meet federal physical activity guidelines and more than 80 percent did not eat recommended levels of fruits and vegetables. A 2008 survey showed that about 40 percent of Kansans put themselves at higher risk for skin cancer by getting sunburned at least once during the year.
Moser urged state health officials, providers and others involved in the battle against cancer to step up their efforts to educate Kansans about how to they can reduce their risk for the disease. He said though previous efforts have led to some reductions in smoking as a whole they haven’t “made much of a dent” in the overall problem of unhealthy behaviors.
Meanwhile, advances in cancer treatments apparently are decreasing the number of Kansans who die from the disease. Over the past decade, the age-adjusted cancer mortality rate has dropped from 186.2 deaths per 100,000 persons to 172.9 deaths per 100,000 persons.
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.