Mat-Su Kids To “Kick Butts” In March

Contributed by Julie Hopkins, Alaska Family Services Tobacco Prevention & Control

National Kick Butts Day
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Breathe Free Mat-Su
FREE Event

National Kick Butts Day is an event sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to bring awareness to people worldwide to “kick the habit” of using tobacco, the world’s leading cause of preventable death. This year National Kick Butts Day is March 21st, a day when youth will be empowered to stand out and speak up against Big Tobacco at events across the United States and around the world.

Kids in the Mat-Su will participate in a local event sponsored by Breathe Free Mat-Su and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, as they join thousands of participants nationwide in this annual day of youth activism. Kids will demand that tobacco companies stop marketing deadly products to them. They will declare that they are not the “replacement smokers” sought by tobacco companies. They will pledge to be the first generation to choose NOT to use tobacco.

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Breathe Free Mat Su, a local clean air coalition, will distribute banners to middle and high schools throughout the Mat-Su Borough the week of March 19th that read: “Pledge To #BeTheFirst” They are pledging to be the first generation of non-smokers. Students who sign are making a statement that, “…I intend to NOT be a replacement tobacco user; my life is too important to throw away.”  

Kids can also put their artistic talents to use by entering the #BeTheFirst Poster contest open to all enrolled MSBSD students, K-12. A 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner will be chosen from three age categories: grades K-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. Great prizes will be awarded to winning entries. Deadline for entries is March 29th. Posters will be on display at the Wasilla Museum April 7th-21st with an opening reception on April 7th. For contest guidelines see our Facebook page, Breathe Free Mat-Su. Youth are encouraged to exercise their creative voice and encourage their peers to choose not to be replacements. Instead, join them to #BeTheFirst generation to not use tobacco.  

Though we have come a long way in the fight against tobacco, every day, more than 2,300 kids under 18 try smoking for the first time and 350 kids become new regular daily smokers.  Tobacco use still kills more than 480,000 people every year. The major tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion per year for marketing and promoting their products. These marketing numbers don’t include the expense of promoting other products like e-cigarettes and cigars, since other tobacco product companies are not required at this time to report this information to the Federal Trade Commission.

With the introduction of heat-not-burn e-cigarettes, more youth now vape than use combustible tobacco. Electronic cigarettes are marketed to promote smoking cessation, and as being much safer than smoking regular cigarettes. Despite advertising claims, it is still uncertain about how safe they are and research continues. 

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An article in the March Journal of Pediatrics entitled “Adolescent Exposure to Toxic Volatile Organic Chemicals from E-Cigarettes” reports on the findings of a recent study (2018) conducted by UCSF Division of Adolescent Medicine. The main conclusions of this study are that: Although e-cigarette vapor may be less hazardous than tobacco smoke, findings challenge the idea that e-cigarette vapor is safe, because many of the volatile organic compounds identified among e-cigarette users (in saliva and urine samples of test subjects) are carcinogenic. With few exceptions, the toxicants were present whether the product contained nicotine or flavorings. In addition, e-cigarette use (vaping) is promoted as a safer way to use tobacco. 

However, the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, the Surgeon General’s Office and public health groups, worry about evidence that vaping can get teens addicted to nicotine and will lead them to smoking cigarettes.

While tobacco companies claim that they have stopped intentionally marketing to kids, they continue to advertise in ways that definitely and directly reach underage populations. For example: splashy ads in magazines with large youth readership (e.g. Rolling Stone, Glamour, Sports Illustrated), sweet-flavored tobacco products that come in flavors appealing to kids (gummy bear, cotton candy, watermelon) and widespread advertising and price discounts in stores, which make tobacco products appealing and affordable to kids.

On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up to the tobacco industry and all of us, especially our elected officials, should stand with them. We need to continue our progress in reducing youth smoking and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

Let’s finish smoking and nicotine use for good!

For additional information and history about national Kick Butts Day, check out Information on our local activities will be posted on the Breathe Free Mat-Su Facebook page and details for the Poster Art Contest will be distributed to the schools.