Oklahoma Kids 'Kick Butts' on March 23

Mar 21, 2011, 14:00 ET from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

State Leaders Urged to Support Higher Tobacco Taxes, Other Tobacco Prevention Initiatives

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Oklahoma will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 23 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 16th annual Kick Butts Day. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events see below).

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Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use.  Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health advocates are calling on elected officials to support proven measures to reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll.  As states struggle with budget deficits, legislators should increase tobacco taxes both to prevent kids from smoking and to raise revenue to balance budgets and fund critical programs.  States should also enact smoke-free air laws that apply to all workplaces and public places and implement well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

"On Kick Butts Day, kids are standing up to the tobacco companies, and elected officials should stand with them by supporting proven tobacco prevention measures," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  "We know what works to reduce smoking and other tobacco use.  Every state should implement these proven solutions, including higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and smoke-free air laws."

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.  While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.

In Oklahoma, tobacco use claims 6,200 lives and costs $1.16 billion in health care bills each year.  Currently, 20.2 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 19,900 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.

On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to carnivals to rallies at state capitols.  Activities in Oklahoma include (all events are on March 23 unless otherwise noted):

Oklahoma State University in Stillwater will gather thousands of students, faculty and community members to demonstrate Project 6000, representing the number of Oklahomans that die from tobacco each year.  They will illustrate their pledge to maintain tobacco-free campuses throughout the state by showcasing the locations of all tobacco-free campuses in the state and to encourage other schools to become tobacco-free.  Time: 10 AM.  Location: Edmon Low Library Lawn, Stillwater.  Contact: Yvon Fils-Aime (405) 227-5998.

Blaine County's Honorable Judge Mark Moore along with Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) from Watonga Middle School in Watonga will hold a mock trial putting Big Tobacco on trial and educate students about the poisonous products and targeted marketing strategies.  Time: 8 AM.  Location: 1020 North Noble Avenue, Watonga.  Contact: Debbie Fry (405) 368-7023.

Members of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) at Beggs Middle School in Beggs will campaign for a tobacco-free campus by displaying anti-smoking signs to parents smoking in the carpool line and collecting cigarette butts on campus to present to the school board to encourage 24/7 smoke free campus policies.  Time: 2:30 PM.  Location: 1300 Campus Drive, Beggs.  Contact: Kristin Gleason (918) 381-8256.

On March 24, members of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) from Pushmataha County will demonstrate the deadly impact of tobacco at Pruett's Food in Antlers as they portray posthumous characters of the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Lucille Ball to tell the story of how tobacco claimed their lives.  Students will also display anti-tobacco messages and provide quit kits and other smoking cessation resources.  Time: 2 PM.  Location: 1002 E. Main Street, Antlers.  Contact: Wendy DeWitt (580) 271-0806.

On March 24, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Lone Grove High School in Lone Grove will team up with former pro-football players, John and Guy Earle, founders of Think Twice Ministries, to address athletes, coaches, parents, staff, and the community about the adverse effects of tobacco and the need for stronger tobacco laws and policies.  Students will host a three-on-three basketball tournament with games, door prizes and other giveaways.  Time: 4 PM.  Location: Practice Gymnasium, 6286 North Meridian Lane, Lone Grove.  Contact: Sally Mitchell (580) 220-7561.

Note to the media: For a list of Kick Butts Day events in Oklahoma, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/events.   Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

CONTACTS: Graham Harrison, 202-745-5062

Ashley Rockhold, 202-296-5469

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids