State Leaders Urged to Support Tobacco Prevention Initiatives
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Alaska will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 21 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 17th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 1,100 events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events see below).
Organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. On Kick Butts Day, youth will encourage their peers to stay tobacco-free and educate their communities about the dangers of tobacco and the tobacco industry's harmful marketing practices.
This year, Kick Butts Day comes just after a new report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that while the nation has made tremendous progress in reducing youth smoking, youth tobacco use remains a "pediatric epidemic" that requires urgent action. The Surgeon General's report reached the following conclusions:
While the high school smoking rate has been cut nearly in half since the mid-1990s, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students still smoke.
In addition to long-term consequence such as cancer and heart disease, tobacco use immediately harms the health of youth and young adults. Smoking quickly causes nicotine addiction, cardiovascular damage, slower lung growth and shortness of breath.
Tobacco marketing causes kids to start and continue using tobacco products. Tobacco companies spend more than $10 billion a year – more than $1 million an hour – to advertise and promote their products.
Science and experience have identified proven strategies to reduce youth tobacco use. These include mass media campaigns, increasing the price of cigarettes through higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free policies and school and community prevention programs.
"Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them, and they want elected leaders to protect them from tobacco," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We know how to win the fight against tobacco. Elected officials across the nation should support these proven solutions, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws and well-funded tobacco prevention programs."
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Nationally, 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke, and another 1,000 kids become regular smokers every day.
In Alaska, tobacco use claims 490 lives and costs $169 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 15.7 percent of the state's high school students smoke.
On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to health fairs to rallies at state capitols. Activities in Alaska include (all events are on March 21 unless otherwise noted):
Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) in Juneauwill hosta "Wall of Hope" event at the Courthouse Plaza featuring inspiring stories of those who have quit tobacco, as well as memorializing those who have died from tobacco-related causes. Free food will be served. Time: 12 PM. Location: 4th and Main Street, Juneau. Contact: Carter Semple (202) 365-0176.
Students from Chevak School in Chevak will expose the truth about the hazardous chemicals found in cigarettes, such as arsenic and ammonia, during a "They put WHAT in a cigarette?!" event. Time: 12 PM. Location: 985 KSD Way, Chevak. Contact: Angela Boyscout (908) 858-2657.
Students in the Peer Helpers and Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) groups at Wasilla Middle School in Wasilla will host a "Dinner of Death" where they will learn about hazardous chemicals found in cigarettes. The event will feature casserole dishes, salad bowls, and dinner platters filled with chemicals that are found in cigarettes, such as arsenic and ammonia. Time: 12 PM. Location: 650 E. Bogard Road, Wasilla. Contact: Janis Mack (907) 352-5369.
The Fighting Against Teen Smoking (FATS) group from Sand Point School in Sand Point will host several activities during the week of Kick Butts Day, including multiple flash mobs and a cigarette pick-up to raise awareness of the perils of youth smoking. Location: 269 Red Cove Road, Sand Point. Contact: Heather Meinert (907) 227-4046.
On March 23, the Mat Su Peer Helpers, Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), and Alaska Family Services will team up to host a Kick Butts Day open gym night at the AT&T Sports Center in Palmer. Kids will participate in games and learn about the virtues of healthy living. Time: 9 PM. Location: 1507 North Double B Street, Palmer. Contact: Misty Jensen (907) 715-6316.
About the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision is a future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. We work to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke. For more information, visit www.tobaccofreekids.org.