OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma has improved its stature in a national report following passage of a law banning indoor tanning by minors.
But the author of the law, Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, said the state can do much more to prevent cancer.
Last session, the Legislature passed and Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 765, which takes effect Nov. 1.
The move changed the state’s stature in the eyes of the Cancer Action Network, which produces “How Do You Measure Up? A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality.”
The Cancer Action Network is a nonpartisan affiliate of the American Cancer Society, said Adrienne Lynch, senior specialist in media advocacy. It supports evidence-based policy and offers legislative solutions to eliminate cancer as a major health problem, Lynch said.
Oklahoma’s ratings stayed the same in all areas except in the category of use restrictions for indoor tanning devices. The other areas ranged from cigarette tax rates to funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Last year, the Cancer Action Network listed Oklahoma as being “red” in the area of indoor tanning device use restrictions, meaning the state fell short.
This year, the report lists Oklahoma as “green,” meaning it has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices.
Paula Warlick, grass-roots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Oklahoma, said passage of the legislation in a state like Oklahoma was a huge deal, and other states are taking note.
“Every year, more and more science comes out to show how truly dangerous indoor tanning is,” Warlick said.
The Oklahoma legislation did not have any publicly organized opposition, but some tanning bed owners did contact lawmakers to voice their opinion, she said.
Some lawmakers who opposed the measure felt like it was too much government intrusion into personal lives or that it should have had an exemption for parental consent.
“It’s not surprising they would say we’re doing better,” Yen said. “Perhaps there are some things we can do to make things better.”
He said the state should continue efforts to increase the cost of cigarettes. Supporters of such policy say increasing the cost will reduce the number of smokers and prevent people, especially younger individuals, from taking up smoking.
Next week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear legal challenges to legislation that put a $1.50 “smoking cessation fee” on cigarettes. Critics say lawmakers did not follow the proper procedure in passing a revenue-raising measure that falls under the definition of a tax increase.
Yen also thinks the state should add the human papillomavirus vaccine to those required for school-age children. The vaccine protects against cancers caused by HPV, such as cervical cancer.
“In my opinion, the (state) health department should have added HPV to the 11 we give kids,” Yen said. “They should have done that a long time ago.”
Yen is a cardiac anesthesiologist who has unsuccessfully sought to remove exemptions to mandatory school vaccinations in an effort to increase the vaccination rate. His effort to require the HPV vaccine was met with strong opposition from some parents.
Yen said he does not anticipate writing a bill to add HPV to the list any time soon.
“I will have to get the other vaccination stuff done first,” he said.