Contributed by Noel Crowley-Bell
On March 15th, elementary, middle and high school students around the nation will participate in a variety of Kick Butts Day activities. By getting involved, America’s youth can raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco, encourage peers to be tobacco-free and support effective solutions to reduce tobacco use.
Students from the Mat-Su Borough School District are joining these thousands of advocates across the United States and beyond who will stand out, speak up and seize control against tobacco by engaging in not just a day of activism, but participate throughout the month; highlighting their choice not to just remain tobacco free, but underscore the reasons why their health matters.
Here are some of the activities students throughout the Valley are working on:
Students at Career Tech High School are making posters to educate themselves and their peers on the long term effects of smoking and the cost to the health care system. Additional posters will detail the realities of how smoking poses a fire danger both inside and outside the home through careless disposal of smoking materials. The in house media production department will produce announcements and other spots for the morning media show. Students will also choose a day to walk the hallways “blowing bubbles not smoke”.
Su Valley Jr. and Sr. High students are focusing on problems closer to home for them - the dangers of electronic nicotine devices (vaping) and spit tobacco. They too are creating posters, hosting trivia contests and encouraging other students to “chew gum, not tobacco”. Go Su Valley!
Wasilla High students are “blowing bubbles not smoke” from 1:00pm-2:15pm on March 23rd. Students will also have a message displayed on their fence they feel is important for the Valley to know.
If “blowing bubbles, not smoke” is a common theme, so too is the idea that kicking butts can be applied to a number of choices such as knowing the facts about different ways nicotine and marijuana can impact youth and the development of their brains as several schools highlight the danger of addiction on developing brains. This is happening at Palmer Jr. Middle School and most of the other schools mentioned here.
So why do these students care? The truth is if smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 (including 14,000 Alaska youth) will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.
In 2015, 11% of Alaska high school students smoked and 12% used smokeless tobacco. 18% of Alaska youth report using e-cigarettes or vaping. Over half (54%) of adult smokers in Alaska were smoking regularly by the time they were 17 years old. Among current high school smokers in Alaska, 36% percent started smoking before age of 13.2
Kick Butts Day, which started in 1996, is an opportunity for youth to come together and send the message to Big Tobacco that they will not become just another statistic. By promoting positive messages through a wide range of activities, Alaska’s youth are helping guide their peers to a healthier, happier future.
Alaska’s adults can help as role models for our youth. Quitting tobacco is hard, but it can be done. Free coaching, nicotine replacement therapies and cessation counseling are available for Alaska adults through Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit Alaskaquitline.com or Facebook.com/Alaskaquitline.
For more information on local Kick Butts Day and other positive messaging activities promoting everyone’s right to breathe smoke-free air, contact Breathe Free Mat-Su at 746-6131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us at Facebook.com/Breathe Free Mat-Su. For information on the national initiative visit the Kick Butts Day website at kickbuttsday.org.