WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kids in North Carolina will unite against tobacco use on March 21 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States for this annual day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)
On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, reject tobacco companies’ devious marketing and urge elected officials to help make the next generation tobacco-free.
This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on the progress the U.S. has made in reducing youth smoking and the actions needed to create the first tobacco-free generation. Since 2000, the national smoking rate among high school students has fallen by 71 percent (from 28 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2016). However, the fight against tobacco is far from over:
- Tobacco use is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing over 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.
- Tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year – $1 million every hour – to market tobacco products in the U.S., often in ways that appeal to kids.
- Electronic cigarettes have become the most popular tobacco product used by kids – nationwide, 11.3 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes compared to 8 percent who smoke cigarettes. The latest trend with teens is JUUL, an e-cigarette that looks like a computer flash drive and comes in flavors like mango and fruit medley.
In North Carolina, tobacco use claims 14,200 lives and costs $3.81 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 13.1 percent of North Carolina’s high school students smoke.
On Kick Butts Day, kids and health advocates are calling on elected officials to implement proven strategies that make up a “roadmap to a tobacco-free generation.” These strategies include tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
“On Kick Butts Day, kids are celebrating the progress we’ve made to reduce tobacco use and building momentum to get us across the finish line,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Elected leaders in every state can help create the first tobacco-free generation by supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use.”
On Kick Butts Day, kids join in creative events ranging from classroom activities to educate their peers about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to rallies at state capitols.
In North Carolina, activities include:
Students at Cedar Ridge High School will commit to be tobacco-free and encourage peers and loved ones to quit smoking by constructing and signing a graffiti pledge wall in the cafeteria. Time: 12 PM. Location: 1125 New Grady Brown School Road, Hillsborough. Contact: Avis Barnes (919) 883-6624.
In support of a smoke-free bus stop policy in Boone, Appalachian State University students will organize a cigarette butt cleanup at the Holmes Convocation Center to educate the community about the dangers of secondhand smoke and advocate for policy changes. Time: 10 AM. Location: 111 Rivers Street, Boone. Contact: Christopher Seitz (434) 338-9436.
Middle and high school students from the Columbia TRU Club and Teens Against Tobacco will lead their peers from Tyrrell Elementary School through an anti-smoking activity called “Breathless” to explain the damaging effects tobacco has on lungs. Other visual exhibits including the “Jar of Tar” will be on display. Time: 8:20 AM. Location: 486 Elementary School Road, Columbia. Contact: Sarah Fox (252) 706-0198.
The Students Mentoring Awareness Resource Team (SMART) and their peers at Jamestown Middle School will celebrate Kick Butts Day with a #RespectYourSelfie photo booth to raise awareness about the impact tobacco has on the community, and pledge to be tobacco free. Time: 10 AM. Location: 301 Haynes Road, Jamestown. Contact: Brittany Wells (336) 709-5766.
On March 27, local middle and high school youth will attend Sampson County’s 4th Annual Teen Health Fair to learn about an array of health topics, including tobacco prevention, at the Bellamy Recreation Center Gymnasium. Students will commit to be tobacco-free and encourage peers and loved ones to quit smoking by constructing and signing a pledge wall. Time: 8:45 AM. Location: Bellamy Center Gymnasium, 500 Pierce Street, Clinton. Contact: Travis Greer (910) 880-0693.
All events will take place March 21 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in North Carolina, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.