Anchorage, ALASKA — Alaska kids are joining thousands of youth across the country by taking part in Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco.
On March 20, elementary, middle and high school students from around the U.S. will participate in a variety of Kick Butts Day activities, such as marching to state capitals and holding rallies; meeting with elected officials; educating peers on the harmful effects of tobacco; and petitioning for smokefree policies. Many are focusing on smokefree schools and universities, including UAA student and Health Education Coordinator at the American Lung Association in Alaska, Bree Villar, who says, “Research is clear: tobacco companies have focused much of their targeting on the young adult population. 100 percent smokefree college campus policies protects the health of students, faculty and staff, promotes a cost-saving, and a green environment.”
Today more than 600,000 middle school students and three million high school students smoke cigarettes. Every day, more than 4,000 kids try their first cigarettes and another 1,000 kids become addicted smokers, one-third of whom will get sick and die prematurely as a result. In Alaska, an estimated 14 percent of high school students smoke and over 8 percent use smokeless tobacco, which means that on average in any given Alaska class of 30 high school students, four smoked a cigarette and 2-3 used smokeless tobacco within the last month.
Alaska has made tremendous progress in reducing youth tobacco use, yet there is more work to be done. Alaska Native students are twice as likely to use tobacco as their non-Native peers. Additionally, in Alaska rates of tobacco use among young adults aged 18-29 exceeds those of adults in all other age groups.
Kick Butts Day events around the state are as follows:
Anchorage; Contact: Bree Villar (907) 952-1211
The UAA Smokefree Task Force, a group of UAA students, alumni and faculty who are working toward a smokefree UAA campus, will be petitioning and gathering signatures in support. They are hosting a booth at the Student Union from 9am to noon with information on the benefits of smokefree campuses, cessation information, resources, contests and giveaways.
Wrangell; Contact: Addy Esco (907) 874-2373
Wrangell Public Schools is partnering with the Student Council and will be providing free “tobacco-free business” window clings. Students will distribute clings and thank businesses who currently are tobacco-free and encourage others to make that choice. They are also hosting a family movie night at the local theatre and will have cessation resources and information available.
Wasilla; Contact: Allison Knox (907) 729-6317
Southcentral Foundation is hosting “Picture Me, I’m Tobacco-Free,” an all ages event in the Valley Native Primary Care Center in Wasilla, 11am-3pm. Come celebrate being tobacco-free with an afternoon of educational activities, games, prizes and snacks.
Soldotna; Contact: Pamela Howard (907) 398-7865
Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) groups will be promoting a Resolution of Support for Smokefree Alaska, which they helped write as a part of the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) State Youth Coalition. Teen Leaders at Soldotna High School, Skyview High School, River City Academy, Kenai Central High School, Kenai Alternative High School, and Nikiski High School will have tables up at lunch to inform and solicit support from their student bodies.
Kodiak; Contact: Sharon Wolkoff (907) 486-9824
Kodiak Alaska's Revolution Against Tobacco (KARAT) youth group will be featured as guest speakers on Hotline, a show on KVOK radio station. They will educate the public on the harms of tobacco and how tobacco companies target youth.
Quitting tobacco is hard, but free help is available for Alaska adults by calling Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting Alaskaquitline.com or Facebook.com/Alaskaquitline. Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line offers FREE coaching, nicotine replacement therapies and/or cessation counseling. For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website atkickbuttsday.org.