West Virginia Kids Will 'Kick Butts' on Wednesday, March 20

Mar 15, 2013, 13:26 ET from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

State Leaders Urged to Support Tobacco Prevention Initiatives

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in West Virginia will stand up against tobacco on March 20 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 18th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 1,200 events are planned across the United States. (See below for a list of local events.)

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Organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by 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. They will also educate their communities about the dangers of tobacco and the tobacco industry's harmful marketing practices.

This year on Kick Butts Day, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is highlighting the tobacco industry's products and marketing that entice kids to use tobacco. According to the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $8.5 billion a year – nearly $1 million each hour – to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. This marketing has an impact on kids:

  • While the U.S. has greatly reduced youth smoking, 18.1 percent of high school students still smoke, and nearly 1,000 kids become regular smokers each day. Among youth smokers, 86 percent prefer Marlboro, Newport and Camel, which are the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands, according to the government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • Tobacco companies have also introduced new products that appeal to kids, including cheap, sweet, colorfully-packaged small cigars that look just like cigarettes. Many cigars come in fruit and candy flavors such as strawberry, vanilla, peach and apple.
  • In a 2012 report, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that tobacco marketing causes kids to start and continue using tobacco products.

"On Kick Butts Day, kids will stand up and reject Big Tobacco's manipulative marketing," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's also a chance for elected leaders to commit to protecting kids from tobacco through policies such as tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and prevention programs. We hope that legislators will listen to their young constituents and implement these proven solutions to reduce tobacco use and save lives."

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.

In West Virginia, tobacco use claims 3,800 lives and costs $690 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 19.1 percent of the state's high school students smoke. West Virginia health advocates are working to significantly increase the state cigarette tax.

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 West Virginia include:

  • Students from Pikeview High School in Princeton will wear surgical masks and stencil sidewalks outside the Mercer County courthouse to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and the lies of Big Tobacco. Time: 1 PM. Location: 1501 Main Street, Princeton. Contact: Angie Willoughby 304-920-7757.
  • Students and staff at Wyoming East High School in New Richmond will put up a "Memorial Wall" on which the names of people who died from tobacco-related diseases will be written. They will also sign a "Pledge Poster" to agree to help someone quit using tobacco. Messages about the dangers of tobacco will be written in chalk on sidewalks around the courtyard at the school. Location: Route 10 & Warrior Way, New Richmond. Contact: Donna Wikel (304) 294-4444.
  • The ASAP (Advocates for Substance Abuse Prevention) and RAZE Crew will host a Kick Butts Day competition at the Weirton Christian Center. There will be various contests demonstrating the dangers of smoking, including a punching bag made to look like a cigarette that youth will try to kick as many times as possible in 1-2 minutes. Location: 3012 Elm Street, Weirton. Contact: Jason Rine (304) 748-7850.
  • Students at Oak Glen High School in New Cumberland will find multiple tombstones marked with a cause of death from tobacco use in the cafeteria and multi-purpose areas of the high school. Location: 95 Golden Bear Drive, New Cumberland. Contact: Ethel Riser (304) 479-1313.
  • Students at Tygarts Valley High School in Mill Creek will conduct a "Big Butt Pick Up" around the school grounds. The butts will be placed in a container as part of a hallway display that will also feature a memorial wall. Location: Tygarts Valley High School, Route 1, Box 290, Mill Creek. Contact: Joan Tacy (304) 335-4575.

For a full list of Kick Butts Day events in West Virginia, visit http://www.kickbuttsday.org/events. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

CONTACTS: Nick Ferreyros, 202-745-5102
Catherine Butsch, 202-296-5469

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids