Kids from Juneau will join thousands of young people in a nationwide rally against tobacco today in celebration of the 12th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 2,000 events are scheduled around the country in celebration of youth advocacy, leadership and activism. The day is sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
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. 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.
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Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) kicked off the Kick Butts Day campaign on March 21 in Juneau by displaying signs at the Douglas Bridge intersection.
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. 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 establishing a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.
Wendy Hamilton is the Tobacco Program coordinator for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.