Local Reality Check youth from Pittsford Mendon/Sutherland and Eastridge High School spoke out and stood up to the tobacco industry during the week of March 21, in an effort to end tobacco use.
Their efforts were part of national Kick Butts Day, which is held March 21. They joined youth from around the country to voice their concerns about tobacco marketing and the impact it has on their community.
“Tobacco use is still a big problem in New York State and we want this generation to be the one that ends it”, said Joseph Potter, Reality Check youth coordinator for Monroe County. “We know that tobacco marketing at retail locations is a primary cause of youth smoking, and we’re asking for help from our community leaders to join with us and declare ‘Enough Is Enough’”.
Reality Check members tabled, spreading awareness about this national tobacco holiday, along with important facts during their lunch periods during the week of March 21. Members created signs for Kick Butts Day with the #NotAReplacement hashtag and then hung them and took pictures to upload to social media, while hosting a Jeopardy game in the lunchroom.
If current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease, according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report. In New York State, 42,500 high school students smoke cigarettes and each year more than 6,900 kids under 18 become new daily smokers.
A study released by the American Cancer Society has found that smoking’s toll on health is even worse than previously thought. The study found five additional diseases attributable to smoking and estimated that an additional 60,000 people die every year in the U.S. due to tobacco use, bringing the total annual death toll to 540,000.
“Smoking kills and we’ve got to protect kids from the cause,” said Potter. “Tobacco displays in convenient stores are geared toward kids, which is a huge problem”.
In New York State, 55 percent of retailers including pharmacies, convenience stores and bodegas dedicate at least half of the space behind the checkout counter to openly visible tobacco products.
Kick Butts Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco. More than 1,000 events in schools and communities across the U.S. were held on or around March 21.
Visit campaignfortobaccofreekids.org and or KickButtsDay.org for more information.