Florida is not doing enough to prevent cancer, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society’s political-action committee.
The state received a positive rating in only one of nine categories examined in the national study.
Only two other states fared worse than Florida in the annual report, which looks at access to care, prevention efforts and quality of life.
The state's best opportunity to save lives and reduce health care costs is to increase the price of cigarettes by at least $1 a pack, said Matt Jordan, government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Committee in Florida.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Florida. The state has not raised its $1.34 tax on a pack of cigarettes in a decade. The national average is $1.75 per pack.
“Not only would we see revenues of upwards of half a billion dollar increase for the state each year, but we'd also see a reduction in our smoking, so we'd probably go down to 11 or 10 percent,” Jordan said.
Roughly 15 percent of Floridians smoke. Prohibiting smoking in bars, at stadiums and other venues would also improve Florida’s health, Jordan said.
Cancer is responsible for about 1,670 deaths per day in the United States and the American Cancer Society says roughly half of those deaths are preventable with diet, exercise and access to health care.
In Florida, more than 135,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and about 43,000 are expected to die from the disease.
The state received poor marks for access to health care because it did not expand Medicaid.
“What we know is if we can increase access and coverage and provide treatment for patients, then we're going to have an immensely higher survival rate and treatment rate and our patients here in Florida are going to be much healthier,” Jordan said.
The only area where the state received a positive rating was in its appropriations for breast and cervical cancer screening program. The program is for women between the ages of 50 and 64 who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to receive coverage.
Funding for the Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program increased to $2.3 million this year.
“Breast cancer is very deadly but if we find you in stage 1 of breast cancer, there is a 93 percent survival rate, so it’s all about getting screened,” Jordan said.