WASHINGTON, March 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Oklahoma will unite against tobacco use on March 15 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States and around the world for this annual day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)
On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, reject tobacco companies' devious marketing and urge elected officials to help make the next generation tobacco-free.
This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on how tobacco companies are enticing kids with a growing market of sweet-flavored products such as electronic cigarettes and cigars, threatening to addict a new generation. These products have proved popular with kids. From 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students jumped from 1.5 percent to 16 percent nationwide, and more kids now use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. In addition, more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes. E-cigarettes and cigars are sold in a wide assortment of candy and fruit flavors, such as gummy bear, cotton candy and fruit punch.
Tobacco companies also continue to spend huge sums to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, much of it reaching kids. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.1 billion a year – one million dollars every hour – on marketing. In Oklahoma, tobacco companies spend $168.5 million annually on marketing efforts.
Health advocates are urging legislators to increase the state's tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack. Significant tax increases are a highly effective way to reduce smoking, especially among kids.
"On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up to the tobacco industry, and our nation's leaders must stand with them," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We've made great strides in reducing youth smoking, but candy-flavored products like e-cigarettes and cigars threaten this progress. We need strong FDA regulation to protect kids from these sweet-flavored products. And elected officials at all levels should support proven strategies that prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, funding prevention programs and raising the tobacco age to 21."
In Oklahoma, tobacco use claims 7,500 lives and costs $1.62 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 14.6 percent of Oklahoma's high school students smoke.
On Kick Butts Day, kids join in creative events that range from classroom activities about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to rallies at state capitols.
In Oklahoma, activities include:
Students from Stigler High School will pass out promotional materials to advocate for a 24/7 tobacco-free campus, in accordance with the 24/7 Tobacco-Free Schools Act, which prohibits the use of tobacco in any form while on school grounds or during school-sponsored functions. The event is in collaboration with The Youth Advisory Board of Choctaw Nation. Time: 6 PM. Location: 103 East Main Street, Stigler. Contact: Kathy Healy (918) 448-4589.
On March 17, children and youth participating in the Stop The Violence (STV) Spring Break Camp in Oklahoma City will create a graffiti wall to educate youth about the benefits of not using tobacco and tobacco cessation. Time: 6 PM. Location: 900 N. Martin Luther King Avenue, Oklahoma City. Contact: Tamara Reeves (405) 822-7844.
On March 23, The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), in collaboration with the Cherokee County TSET Healthy Living Program Coalition, will pick up "billions of butts" in the Sequoyah City Park. Youth will also contact their legislators to promote a healthier Oklahoma. Time: 3 PM. Location: 100 N Water Avenue, Tahlequah. Contact: Lora Buechele (918) 822-0411.
On March 26, Noble Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) will create visual displays of fatal figures about Oklahomans' tobacco use. There will also be quit line information, face painting, a four-square tournament, a graffiti area and photo booth. Time: 1 PM. Location: 304 Main Street, Noble. Contact: Kim Adams (405) 205-8868.
All events are on March 15 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Oklahoma, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.
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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids