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In recognition of national Kick Butts Day on March 23, the Juneau chapter of Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU Juneau) is sponsoring its fourth annual Memorial Wall dedicated to the memories of those who have died due to tobacco use.
Kick Butts Day was conceived by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids 15 years ago to encourage and empower youth to speak out against tobacco industry tactics that target them as potential tobacco consumers.
“The tobacco industry spends 35 million dollars a day in the U.S. alone to recruit new smokers, especially youth ages 14-18,” said Wendy Hamilton, Tobacco Program Manager at the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Why do these companies target youth? Nearly 90 percent of adults who become regular smokers starting smoking before age 18. The tobacco industry knows the earlier they can get a person addicted to tobacco, the longer they will smoke.
Every day approximately 4,000 new kids will try their first cigarette, thinking they will just experiment with smoking and stop whenever they want. Unfortunately, nicotine is a highly addictive substance — as addictive as heroin or cocaine — and recent studies have shown that many people become hooked after their first cigarette. Each year, 400,000 kids will become daily smokers, and one-third of them will ultimately die from their tobacco use.
The statistics illustrating tobacco’s toll on U.S. society are staggering. Tobacco kills more people than alcohol, drugs, AIDS, car accidents, murders and suicides combined, nearly 1,200 people a day. That’s the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing every day.
“Tobacco is the only product that when used as directed will kill you,” said Hamilton. “But we can become numb to statistics and numbers. Most people have lost a friend or family member to tobacco use and each death has a ripple effect on the family, friends and community.”
Four years ago TATU Juneau created the Memorial Wall to put a name and face to those who have died from their tobacco use.
Anyone who has lost a loved one due to tobacco use is invited to send names, stories, or photos to be added to the Memorial Wall, by sending submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 463-3755.
The Memorial Wall will be displayed at the Nugget Mall March 11-15, Bartlett Regional Hospital March 16-18, the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament March 20-22 and in the courtyard of the Dimond Courthouse on March 23 for Kick Butts Day.