State Leaders Urged to Support Tobacco Prevention Initiatives
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Massachusetts 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.
In Massachusetts, health advocates are working to increase the cigarette tax and increase funding for tobacco 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 Massachusetts, tobacco use claims 9,000 lives and costs $3.54 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 16 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 Massachusetts include (all events are on March 21 unless otherwise noted):
Youth from the 84 Movement and Sociedad Linata in Boston will march across the Boston Commons and rally outside the State House to fight Big Tobacco. Following the rally, the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program will host an event with state legislators and public health officials inside where youth will meet with legislators to show support for fighting tobacco use. Time: 9 a.m. Location: 24 Beacon Street, Boston. Contact: Rick Stockwood (617) 953-0178 or Melissa Luna (617) 501-4474. [Note: US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is scheduled to address the youth at the public event.]
On March 20, members of the Boys & Girls Club of Charlestown will collaborate with nursing students from Massachusetts General Hospital's Institute for Health Professions (MGH/IHP) to fight against tobacco use. Organizers will teach members about harmful effects of tobacco and ask them to pledge their commitment to be tobacco-free. Time: 3:45 p.m. Location: 15 Green Street, Boston. Contact: Jennifer Spina (781) 254-4770.
Students at Westhampton Elementary School in Westhamptonwill display unhealthy pig lungs to demonstrate the damage cigarettes have on smokers' lungs. Students will partake in an anti-smoking poster contest to and winners will be awarded prizes. Time: 1:00 p.m. Location: 37 Kings Highway, Westhampton. Contact: Amy Avakian (413) 527-0561.
On March 27, Everett Community Health Partnership-Substance Abuse Coalition (ECHP-SAC) will partner with Everett High School in Everettto highlight the dangers of tobacco use to over 2,000 students. To demonstrate harmful effects of tobacco students will display educational posters, murals, body bags, and a graffiti wall throughout the school. Location: 100 Elm Street, Everett. Contact: Jamie Stein (919) 672-5102.
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.