While New Jersey is performing well in certain areas of the fight against cancer, the state is still missing out on critical opportunities to pass legislative solutions proven to prevent the deadly disease, according to a report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Of the nine priority areas examined in How Do You Measure Up?, New Jersey reached the benchmark on less than half.

"Everything that we advocate for is evidence-based," said Brian Shott, ACS CAN's New Jersey director of government relations.

Under the category of access to care, New Jersey was called out for its pain policy. Shott said there's some concern that New Jersey's prescription laws could block cancer survivors from receiving necessary treatment in the form of opioids. Research finds 30 percent of cancer patients who have completed treatment still suffer from pain, the study said.

In the report's tobacco category, New Jersey was "in the green" for its smoke-free laws and cigarette tax rates. The state's tax rate tops the national average by more than a dollar, and the state is 100 percent smoke-free in non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants and bars.

However, the state was found to be "falling short" for Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation, and New Jersey's tobacco prevention funding received the worst mark possible.

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, a total of more than $10 million is spent by a handful state agencies on tobacco prevention, cessation and education each year. The report shows the CDC recommends New Jersey spend more than $103 million annually on the effort.

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Legislation that would dedicate 1 percent of New Jersey tobacco tax revenues to anti-smoking initiatives is likely to become law by next fiscal year. It passed both houses of the legislature, but was conditionally vetoed in July by Gov. Chris Christie, who asked that the date of implementation be pushed back. The full Assembly has since approved the tweak.

In the area of cancer prevention, New Jersey received a positive mark for breast and cervical cancer early detection. However, the state is said to be falling short with its law that prohibits anyone under the age of 17 to use tanning beds without parental permission. ACS CAN believes the age threshold should be bumped to 18.

New Jersey scored well on increased access to Medicaid and is said to be "making progress" on access to palliative care.

The DOH said the New Jersey Advisory Council on End of Life Care is developing recommendations on how to improve palliative, hospice and end of life care. The council's report is expected next spring.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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