The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network annual report finds the Evergreen State is woefully underfunding tobacco-cessation programs, an important step toward stopping preventable cancer. The state spent $2.3 million in fiscal year 2017, only three-percent of the $63.6 million the CDC recommends.
Mary McHale, Washington government relations director for the action network, says unfortunately, the state's priorities have changed in recent years.
"About a decade ago, our state used to have one of the most well-funded prevention programs in the country, but over time that money has been swept away to help fill other holes in the budget and to the point now where the level of funding our state receives for tobacco prevention and control is absolutely dismal," she explains.
McHale says this is especially troubling because tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the state. This year, about 8,300 Washingtonians will die from smoking.
McHale says there has been progress preventing cancer in some areas, but that the state is missing opportunities in others. She says the state is not putting enough money into its breast, cervical and colon health program, which opens up access to cancer screenings for Washingtonians who are uninsured or under-insured.
She also says lawmakers have a lot of power to help here.
"Our elected officials in Olympia have a lot of opportunities to help reduce the burden of cancer in our communities, from increasing funding for tobacco prevention and control programs to just making sure that folks are able to access health care in our state," says McHale. "They really have a lot that they are able to do to help people."
On the positive side, the report commends Washington state for increasing access to Medicaid, providing coverage for many more low-income residents.