Kids in West Virginia 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. 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 West Virginia, tobacco use claims 3,800 lives and costs $690 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 21.8 percent of the state’s high school students smoke, and 10,300 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 West Virginia include (all events are on March 23 unless otherwise noted):
In Huntington, students at Vinson Middle School will participate in thirteen different Kick Butts Day activities, ranging from a missing you memorial wall to a graffiti wall event where students will write messages to Big Tobacco. Time: 11 AM. Location: 3851 Piedmont Road, Huntington. Contact: Cindy Setliff (304) 654-0498.
In Madison, students at Scott High School will set up a pledge wall for students to pledge to stop smoking. Time: 8 AM. Location: #1 Skyhawk Place, Madison. Contact: Kevin Graley (304) 369-3011.
In Mill Creek, students at the Tygarts Valley High School will create a memorial wall with the names of loved ones who have passed away because of a tobacco-related diseases. Time: 11 AM. Location: Route 1, Box 290, Mill Creek. Contact: Joan Tracy (304) 335-4575.
On March 31, in Pursglove, youth from the SHACK Neighborhood House will go around Morgantown and Star City areas to clean up improperly discarded cigarette butts.