New Jersey meets American Cancer Society policy recommendations in just three of eight areas evaluated in the ACS Cancer Action Network’s latest annual report card issued today.

The report uses a color-coded system akin to a traffic light. New Jersey gets "green" ratings for three areas, including increased Medicaid access, high cigarette taxes and strong smoke-free laws, a "yellow" rating for pain policy and ‘red’ ratings for four areas where it’s falling short.

In one way, it’s slightly better than last year, when it got a ‘black’ rating for providing practically no money for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. It now allocates $7.2 million, compared with the $103 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s still not where we need to be, but it was significant enough to bump us up,” said Samantha DeAlmeida, New Jersey government relations director for ACS CAN. “It puts us at about 7 percent of what the CDC recommends.”

One grade went down since 2018: A "red" rating for access to palliative care. But it can quickly flip that to "green" if Gov. Phil Murphy signs a bill on his desk, A312, requiring hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities to provide information about palliative and hospice care services to seriously ill patients.

“Access to palliative care is actually something that we’re tracking pretty aggressively,” DeAlmeida said.

In addition to palliative care and tobacco program funding, the state gets below-average ratings for providing only limited Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation services and for allowing teens, with a parent’s permission, to use indoor tanning salons.

“The department did implement changes in January that did allow for increased Medicaid coverage for some tobacco cessation services, but services like the Quitline and different counseling services are divided up by plan,” DeAlmeida said. “It’s not something every plan is offered.”

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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