The National Cancer Institute is banning Iowa from its list of places where it will hold meetings because the Hawkeye State doesn’t have a statewide restriction on smoking. Doctor George Weiner, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, says it should be a wake-up call for Iowa’s legislators.
Weiner says “I’m hopeful this will give the state extra incentive to push forward with stronger anti-tobacco policies. It is embarrassing to be on this list but if we are progressive and if we care about our citizens, we’ll take this as a sign that we need to move forward.”
While several Iowa communities and most hospitals statewide have enacted smoking bans, Weiner says it wasn’t enough for the National Cancer Institute to give its seal of approval. He says Iowa’s not alone on the list. In all, 13 states don’t have what the N-C-I considers adequate regulations on second-hand smoke and based on that, they don’t want people attending conferences in those states or they might risk exposure to the carcinogens in second-hand smoke.
Research shows second-hand smoke is to blame for the deaths of up to 60-thousand adult non-smokers in the U.S. every year. While the N-C-I list is something of a black mark against Iowa, Weiner says he doesn’t blame the agency for the extreme stance it’s taking on the issue.
Weiner says “This is a very important issue. Second-hand smoke clearly is a cause of cancer-related deaths and although there are different degrees of exposure to second-hand smoke, I think it’s very reasonable for the N-C-I to make this rule, given that its mission is to decrease suffering and death from cancer.”
The institute says its meetings are off-limits to the following states: Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia. The N-C-I is responsible for nearly 20-million dollars annually in research funding at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the U-of-I, Iowa’s only N-C-I-designated cancer center.