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Cancer Patients, Survivors Urge PA Lawmakers to Act

Almost 25 percent of Pennsylvania high-school students are using e-cigarettes. (rolandmey/Pixabay)
Almost 25 percent of Pennsylvania high-school students are using e-cigarettes. (rolandmey/Pixabay)
April 18, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. - State lawmakers were urged on Tuesday to end exemptions to Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act.

Almost 81,000 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and close to 30,000 will die of cancer-related causes. Cancer patients, survivors and caregivers spent the day asking their representatives to protect more workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke by extending the law to ban smoking in all workplaces in the state.

Diane Phillips, director of governmental relations for the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, said those exemptions put many in the Keystone State at risk.

"Casinos employ thousands of workers across Pennsylvania," she said. "Some bars and restaurants, private clubs, some types of truck stops and 25 percent of hotel rooms are allowed to permit smoking."

Phillips said they also want electronic cigarettes included in the state Clean Indoor Air Act, and for lawmakers to maintain funding for efforts to help people quit or discourage them from starting to smoke. She added that lawmakers are set to divert money administered by the Pennsylvania Health Department.

"The General Assembly has decided to borrow against Pennsylvania's Tobacco Settlement," she said, "and in fiscal year 2019-20, we're concerned about funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs."

The current state budget includes $362 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

Phillips noted that tobacco use among young people has been cut in half, to less than 13 percent, but e-cigarette use is skyrocketing. Almost one in four high school students in Pennsylvania now uses them and, like tobacco, e-cigarettes contain nicotine.

"What that means is, young people are becoming addicted to nicotine," she said. "That in and of itself is a health hazard. And then we also worry that once you become addicted to nicotine, you might want to try other tobacco products."

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Clean Indoor Air Act. Phillips said the law has worked well, but it needs to be strengthened.

More information is online at acscan.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA