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 Minnesota, tobacco use claims 5,500 lives and costs $2.06 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 18.1 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 Minnesota include (all events are on March 21 unless otherwise noted):
Led by Asian Media Access, youth in Minneapolis will hold “Tobacco Compliance Check Day” at local grocery stores to raise awareness of tobacco policies among store owners and clerks. Participants will develop postcards in five languages and distribute them to store clerks and the community. Time: 10 AM. Location: 2418 Plymouth Avenue N, Minneapolis. Contact: Khou Yang (612) 376-7715.
Southeast Asian Youth 4 Change in St. Paul will “Air Out Tobacco’s Dirty Numbers” with a display of T-shirts that feature statistics of lives lost and lies promoted by Big Tobacco. Students will engage the broader community through social media and send petitions to lawmakers. Time: 12 PM. Location: Hmong Flea Market, 1001 Johnson Parkway, St. Paul. Contact: Choua Lee (651) 235-6400.
Partners in Prevention will use shoes to demonstrate the deadliness of tobacco at Adrian Middle/High School in Adrian. Students will display a pair of shoes for each life lost in a day from tobacco use around the cafeteria. The shoes will feature anti-tobacco messaging to spark candid conversations about the dangers of tobacco. Time: 8 AM. Location: Adrian Middle/High School, 415 Kentucky Avenue, Adrian. Contact: Tammi Heronimus (507) 483-2232 ext. 524.
Students at Red Lake County Central Schools in Oklee will develop posters about the toxins contained in cigarettes and will place them in area business. Classrooms will also display tombstones to represent the number of Minnesotans who die each day from tobacco. Time: 8 AM. Location: Red Lake County Central Schools, 100 Governor Street, Oklee. Contact: Margo Peterson (218) 686-0270.
Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) at Chisholm Area Middle and High Schools in Chisholm will host a tree of life in each school’s cafeteria. Students will write the name of a person they know who smokes or has quit on a leaf that will be added to the tree to visually represent the people affected by tobacco. Time: 10:30 AM. Location: Chisholm Senior High, 301 SW. 4th Street, Chisholm. Contact: Cristina Myers (218) 966-3788.
For a full list of Kick Butts Day events in Minnesota, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/events. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.
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, visitwww.tobaccofreekids.org..