This year marks the 11th annual Kick Butts Day, which is the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids' annual celebration of youth advocacy, leadership and activism. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids seeks to educate people of all ages about the dangers of tobacco and especially focuses on youth prevention.
Youth prevention is a vital component of tobacco policy programs because studies show that over 90 percent of adult smokers report initiating tobacco use as a teenager. The onset of tobacco use among students increases most rapidly between the ages of 10 and 17. Long term studies have found that even though adolescent smokers thought they would not be smoking in five years, 75 percent were still smoking five to six years later.
"The statistics on tobacco use in Alaska are frightening," said Wendy Hamilton, tobacco program coordinator for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "Youth surveys in Alaska show that approximately 19 percent of high school students smoke, and that 1,100 kids (under 18) become new daily smokers each year."
The theme, "They Put WHAT in a Cigarette?!?" was chosen by the TATU group because there is legislation currently before the U.S. Congress that would grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past and did not pass by a small margin.
"It seems unthinkable that the FDA regulates thousands of products to protect consumers and ensure public health, including nicotine replacement products, but not tobacco," said Hamilton. "Obviously, Big Tobacco has big money and big influence in Washington, D.C. Cigarettes are the only consumer product that when used as directed will kill you."
Cigarettes have 69 known carcinogens in them, including cyanide, DDT, butane, arsenic, cadmium, which is used in car batteries, methanol and polonium 210. Polonium 210 made international news recently as the poison used to kill two Russian spies in Europe.
The pending federal legislation addresses several key areas including regulating tobacco advertising, regulating the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, and establish a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.
March 28th is the official Kick Butts Day and over 2,000 youth groups nationwide will be celebrating with special events.