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MT Takes Cancer-Prevention Steps; Still Work Ahead

A new report points to Montana's smoke-free laws in buildings as a good step toward cancer prevention. (Pixabay)
A new report points to Montana's smoke-free laws in buildings as a good step toward cancer prevention. (Pixabay)
August 4, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – Montana is making progress in helping people prevent cancer but still has room to improve, according to a new report.

An annual report from the American Cancer Society's "Cancer Action Network" gives the state passing grades for its smoke-free laws in buildings and for increasing access to Medicaid. But the state still has a higher-than-average smoking rate. One of the bedrocks to cancer prevention is making sure kids never start using tobacco.

Kristen Page Nei, the government relations director for the Cancer Action Network in Montana, says state lawmakers can help accomplish this goal in three ways.

"First, make sure that there's a smoke-free environment," she says. Two, to adequately fund a statewide tobacco prevention program that also has an evidence-based cessation program. And three, to frequently and significantly increase the price on all tobacco products."

Nei says electronic cigarettes are a concern in the state right now because there's no law against smoking them in buildings, and she believes they normalize smoking.

Montana also hasn't raised its tax on tobacco since 2005. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death.

Nei suggests Montana should also restrict access for young people to indoor tanning beds. She says they significantly increase a person's risk of cancer.

"Using tanning devices before the age of 35 raises the risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 59 percent," she adds.

Nei notes that the World Health Organization classified tanning beds in its highest category of carcinogenic devices, alongside cigarettes. She says when lawmakers take steps to prevent cancer, they save lives and also save money on health-care costs down the road.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT