TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Mary Kemp has seen up close and personal the dire effects of tobacco smoking. A close friend of hers has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has been given only a couple of months to live.

“It’s tough,” she said. “He’s in a lot of pain. It’s really heartbreaking.”

But it’s not just smokers who are at risk of lung or other types of cancer or other diseases. Such things can befall anyone who is subject to secondhand smoke, according to the American Cancer Society.

Kemp is Idaho’s grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and today she’ll be at Canyon Ridge High School for a cause. As participants at this evening’s Relay For Life event honor those who’ve been touched by cancer, Kemp will kick off the Smoke-free Twin Falls campaign.

The campaign, in part, will gather signatures from people and recruit volunteers in an effort to clean the air in Twin Falls. A large number of the population, through no fault of their own, are subject to secondhand smoke in the workplace and other venues, she said. Signed petitions will be turned over to the Twin Falls City Council, urging them to pass a comprehensive local smoke-free law.

It’s one way to fight cancer, Kemp said, and Relay For Life is a great place to kick off the campaign.

There’s not a goal on the number of signatures to obtain, but she hopes to gather lots at this evening’s event “so the city council can see how many are behind it,” she said.  “The council is there to represent people in the community.”

The American Cancer Society also is fundraising to fight cancer caused by tobacco smoke, with a goal of $100,000. So far about $42,000 has been raised, Kemp said. More opportunities for fundraising will be held at this evening’s event.

According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke can cause not only lung cancer but one or more of several other diseases, including cancer of the larynx, pharynx, nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach and breast. Children also are at risk of lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer and brain tumors.

Kemp, who works with young people as a coach in Boise, said tobacco companies often target young people, but her organization is doing what it can to counterattack the threat of firsthand and secondhand smoke.

“The tobacco companies know if they can get people hooked when they’re young, they’ll bring income in to the companies for life,” she said. “As a coach I want to protect these young people. I think it’s only fair that they have the life expectancy that they deserve for choosing not to be a smoker.”

Tonight’s Events
The opening ceremony for Relay For Life begins at 6 p.m. today at Canyon Ridge High School. The Smoke-free Twin Falls campaign starts at 6:30 p.m. A luminaria ceremony will begin at 10 p.m., and closing ceremonies at 11:30 p.m.

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