On March 21, 2012, thousands of youth in every state and around the world stood out, spoke up and seized control against big tobacco. This year’s Kick Butts Day is the 17th annual celebration of youth advocacy, leadership and activism – a nationwide initiative that makes kids the leaders in efforts to stop youth tobacco use.
As part of the local Kick Butts Day effort, FMH tobacco educator Shanna Figgins and members of the Frederick County Smoke Free Maryland Coalition joined Frederick County 4-H members and members from the Frederick Police Department’s Police Activities League (PAL) Program to clean up cigarette butts in Hospital Park. Frederick County Parks and Recreation supported the effort by providing trash bags and gloves for all participants. An educational session after the event increased awareness of both the environmental and health hazards of smoking, specifically to children and young adults.
“It’s important to talk to kids about the dangers of smoking,” said Figgins. “Every day, about 4,000 kids in the United States try their first cigarette – some as young as the fourth grade. We need to arm them with information about the immediate health effects like persistent coughs, respiratory problems, decreased physical performance and a weakened immune system, as well as the long-term health issues associated with tobacco use.”
A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General notes that 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.
“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.”
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 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 Maryland, tobacco use claims 6,800 lives and costs $1.96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 14.1 percent of the state’s high school students smoke.
For information on the national Kick Butts Day initiative, visit their website at www.kickbuttsday.org. For information about local tobacco prevention and cessation resources, contact Shanna Figgins with the FMH Smoking Cessation Program at 240-566-3622 or the Frederick County Health Department at 301-600-1755.