Remembering a Champion in the Fight Against Cancer

With the sad news of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) passing earlier this week, many groups are speaking out and recognizing him for the many causes he dedicated himself to in his nearly 30 years in the U.S. Senate. To the cancer community, Sen. Lautenberg will always be remembered for his unyielding advocacy for policies to protect our children from the deadly addiction of tobacco.

Sen. Lautenberg was responsible for the lifesaving legislation that banned smoking on domestic flights. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe people could ever smoke on airplanes, but it wasn’t too long ago that airplanes served as vessels for secondhand smoke. In 1987, Congress passed a law prohibiting smoking on any flight less than two hours. But that wasn’t enough for Sen. Lautenberg. A former smoker himself, Sen. Lautenberg wanted to protect all airline workers and non-smoking patrons from the dangers of secondhand smoke on any flight. So just two years later, Sen. Lautenberg led the charge to get the Senate to pass a bill to prohibit smoking on all domestic flights, protecting the health of the thousands that fly every day.

“The Surgeon General has made it very clear that it is dangerous to be a passive smoker, sitting in a confined space where other people smoke,” Lautenberg said.

In addition to this landmark legislation, Sen. Lautenberg championed the tobacco control movement by co-sponsoring legislation that gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products and was a consistent supporter of increases to the federal tobacco tax. Most recently he co-sponsored a bill that would raise the federal tobacco tax by 94 cents, which would prevent 626,000 children from premature death and reduce the number of adult smokers by 2.6 million over 10 years.

Sen. Lautenberg, who faced his own battle with stomach cancer in 2010, was a true champion in the fight against cancer. A member of the Congressional Cancer Caucus, Sen. Lautenberg was a consistent supporter of legislation to make necessary breast and cervical cancer screenings available to all women who need them, and legislation to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to cancer clinical trials.

For all of these reasons, cancer patients and survivors everywhere are celebrating and remembering his legacy as a cancer advocate and a leader in protecting the health of the nation from deadly tobacco products.

 

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