State Leaders Urged to Support Tobacco Prevention Initiatives
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Kids in Mississippi 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 Mississippi, health advocates are working to increase pass a comprehensive smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
"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 Mississippi, tobacco use claims 4,700 lives and costs $719 million in health care bills each year. Currently,19.6 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 Mississippi include (all events are on March 21 unless otherwise noted):
Youth from the Vinyard New Outreach Ministry in Greenville will host a Kick Butts Day health fair featuring information booths and performances by local artists. The Mayor of Greenville, Heather McTeer, will attend. Time: 12 p.m. Location: 1101 S. Broadway Street, Greenville. Contact: Arrica Addison (662) 537-4903.
Children from the Columbus Air Force Base Youth Center in Columbuswill attend an anti-tobacco health fair hosted by local organizations including the Mississippi Department of Health, American Lung Association, United Way and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department. Time: 3 p.m. Location: 386 Imes Street, Building 348, Columbus. Contact: Brionna Ruff (662) 434-7068.
Students from the Amite School Center in Libertywill "air out tobacco's dirty laundry" by hanging clothes covered in quotes from tobacco companies on the lawn in front of the school. Location: 1604 Old Liberty Road, Liberty. Contact: Cindy Estes (601) 754-0220.
On March 22, over 1200 adults and 1200 students from the Pearl River County School District in Carriere will attend a "Family Health Night" event that will provide educational materials, incentive prizes and cessation "quit kits." Time: 5:30 p.m. Location: Pearl River County High School Cafeteria, 7407 Highway 11, Carriere. Contact: Kimberly Styron (228) 282-2622.
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.