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posted: 11/27/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Local progress in lung cancer awareness

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's certainly not as well-known as October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And its color -- white -- not as well-worn.

But November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and its message is just as important.

The American Lung Association reports that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States. Yes, it surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in 1987.

In fact, the association and the American Cancer Society go on to report, it causes more deaths (an estimated 160,000 in 2012) than the next four types of cancer combined (colon, breast, pancreas and prostate). Smoking is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer cases. And exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.

We remain strong proponents of anti-smoking laws and restrictions on all types of smoking for minors. Just last month, we strongly urged the Food and Drug Administration to listen to 40 state attorneys general and begin regulating electronic cigarettes as tobacco products. Doing so would lead to federal age restrictions and create rules for advertising. Illinois' ban on selling these new style of cigarettes begins in January.

The long-term health effects of the cigarettes, which use batteries to heat liquid nicotine and turn it into a vapor that is inhaled, are unknown. But their popularity is known and growing. And that could lead young people to move from e-cigs to regular cigarettes.

That's the theory behind a proposed Chicago ordinance that would add e-cigarettes to the city's smoking ban and bar their use in offices, indoor public areas and within 10 feet of building entrances.

We support that move and would encourage other communities and the state to do likewise. The American Lung Association, which also wants FDA oversight of these products, is concerned about potential harm to those exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes.

Also to be commended for being proactive in the fight against lung cancer and secondhand smoke is the Vernon Hills Park District board, which last week voted to broaden its anti-smoking rules and banned the use of tobacco products within 15 feet of all its properties.

According to the park district's executive director, Vernon Hills joins 18 other area park districts in enacting similar bans. We'd like to see many more do the same.

"Some of our commissioners feel we're in a business to promote a healthy lifestyle and quality of life, and it's kind of practice what you preach," said Executive Director Jeff Fougerousse.

They may not have been wearing white ribbons when they approved that ordinance, but they have contributed to the month's cause.

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