Peers Against Tobacco is all about helping youth in activities that promote positive change. We know how bad the tobacco industry has behaved in the past and continues to find ways despite regulation and controls on marketing; but kids these days are smarter than that!
Young people are stepping to the front lines of the tobacco wars on April 4 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the annual Kick Butts Day.
This year’s Kick Butts Day promises to be the largest ever, with more than 1,500 events planned in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and abroad. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco industry to stop targeting them with advertising and they want Congress and state legislatures to do more to protect them from tobacco. From mock-funerals for the Marlboro Man to rallies at state capitols to surveys of tobacco advertising, kids will be making their presence felt both vocally and visually.
Kick Butts Day comes just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission released a report showing that the tobacco companies are spending more money than ever to market their products, including in magazines and stores popular with kids. Contrary to tobacco companies’ claims that they have become more responsible since the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, the report showed that in 1999, the first year after the settlement, the tobacco companies spent a record $8.24 billion on marketing, an increase of 22.3 percent from 1998. In other words, the tobacco companies are spending $22.5 million a day to market their deadly products. “This report shows that the tobacco companies have changed for the worse,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, which sponsors Kick Butts Day. That makes Kick Butts Day more important than ever before. Kids are standing up against the tobacco companies, and it’s important that lawmakers across this country stand with them. “Congress must pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority over tobacco, including the authority to restrict tobacco marketing and sales to kids,” Myers said, “And state lawmakers must invest tobacco settlement money in tobacco prevention programs that have produced dramatic successes in states such as Florida and Massachusetts that have implemented them.”
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Ninety percent of smokers start at or before the age of 18. Every day, 3,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
Nationally, 34.8 percent of high school students are current smokers. In Louisiana, 33.3 percent of high school students smoke, and 24,000 kids become daily smokers every year. On Kick Butts Day, Louisiana’s kids take their turns as leaders in the fight against tobacco. Kids throughout Assumption Parish schools have been busy creating anti-smoking floats for their first Mardi Gras-style, tobacco-free parade to take place at 4:30. The event starts at Assumption High School. Local legislators, public officials and sheriffs have been invited to join more than 500 kids wearing T-shirts carrying a message to Big Tobacco that “Not Everyone”s Doing It.”
On April 4 at 5:30 P.M., a youth group at the Gibsland Youth Community Resource Center will hold a memorial period to remember family and friends who died from tobacco-related illnesses. The local American Heart Association president and local ministers will attend, along with the mayor, who officially declared April 4 as “Kick Butts Day.”
The New Orleans Job Corps is planning a fun-run, a mini rally, a tobacco buy-back, and a motivational speaker from the local chapter of the American Cancer Society will talk about the dangers of tobacco and related products at 3801 Holly Grove at 10:45 AM.
Kick Butts Day is co-sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and New York City Public Advocate. The CAMPAIGN works to protect kids from tobacco and reduce the deadly toll of tobacco in our society.
Note to the media: A list of events in Louisiana follows. Additional Kick Butts Day activities are being announced daily. Please check the Kick Butts Day web site at http://kickbuttsday.org for a current list of events in each state. Additional information about tobacco, including state by state statistics, can be found at http://tobaccofreekids.org.