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August 19, 2013

Okla. not doing enough to fight cancer, group says

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma has failed to adopt important policies to fight and prevent cancer, an advocacy group affiliated with American Cancer Society reported.

Of 10 benchmarks scored by the ACS Cancer Action Network, Oklahoma had only moderate progress in four of the categories. The rest scored below the group's standards for tobacco policy, physical education, youth tanning and Medicaid expansion.

Link: See how other states fared in the full report

There are 14 states that have no statewide rules creating smoke-free establishments; Oklahoma is one of them, the group said.

In this year's regular legislative session, Gov. Mary Fallin supported a bill giving control to local governments, which would allow them to ban smoking in public places. The measure died in a Senate committee just a few days into session.

Fallin has vowed to push for the policy elsewhere, calling for a public referendum to appear on the ballot in 2014, although she has not yet introduced a formal proposal.

Her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said Friday any plan to improve Oklahomans' health has to address tobacco.

"We never are excited about a report criticizing Oklahoma's health laws, but we certainly agree there is a lot that can be done to reduce tobacco use," he said.

Lawmakers must adopt policies "that help people fight cancer," Michelle Brown, state ambassador for ACS CAN, said alongside the report.

A significant part of prevention is tied to government spending. Last year, Oklahoma spent nearly $20 million to counter an estimated marketing push worth eight times that amount by the tobacco industry.

The state sat in the middling ground under this category by spending less than half of the federally recommended amount, ACS CAN said.

That $20 million is earned through interest accruing on a settled tobacco industry lawsuit. Any other funds would have to come with legislative approval.

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