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EDITORIAL

One wonders who is going to pay for the treatment of all of the preventable cervical cancer.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported the Florida House Schools and Learning Council “rejected a stronger proposal that would have required families to decide one way or the other after receiving the information about human papillomavirus: Either have their daughters vaccinated to be able to enroll in the seventh grade, or sign a paper saying they don’t want the vaccine.”

The reason the Learning Council voted the way it did was both good and bad. Some thought there was not enough information on the long-term effects of the drug. Others, more disturbingly, thought that since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, its vaccination should be up to families, not the government.

Of course, even if a woman lives in line with “traditional family values” and waits until marriage to have sex, she can still catch the virus. Just as with Hepatitis B – the only other sexually transmitted disease for which Florida requires a vaccination – women can catch HPV through no “irresponsible” behavior whatsoever.

But the decision not to have women vaccinated is irresponsible, and it will cost Florida money. Parents who decline the vaccine should have to pay for that decision.

After all, that would be consistent with other American policies pertaining to health care costs that stem from irresponsible behavior. For instance, MSN Money reports that smoking costs the United States “$94 billion yearly in lost productivity. An additional (estimated) $89 billion is spent on public and private healthcare combined.” That fact has been the basis for many lawsuits against tobacco companies, in which states seek to recoup expenses incurred by paying for smokers’ health care. Increased taxes placed on packs of cigarettes have routinely been justified by the health care costs of smoking, both for non-smokers who inhale secondhand smoke and smokers themselves.

It’s not a new problem: Society is willing to provide the “have-nots” with medical care, but not if those “have-nots” are responsible for the fact that they are ill.

In the case of smoking, it is the act of lighting up that causes significantly greater risks of cancer for smokers and those around them, making it fair that smokers pay more for their habit.

In the case of HPV, it should be the same. That piece of paper parents sign declining the vaccine for their children should be a check made out to the state, not merely a waiver saying that some parents would prefer their daughters get cancer rather than admit their daughter might have sex at some point in the future.