State Leaders Challenged to Create First Tobacco-Free Generation
Kids in Illinois will unite against tobacco use on Wednesday, March 21 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States for this annual day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)
This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on the progress the U.S. has made in reducing youth smoking and the actions needed to create the first tobacco-free generation. Since 2000, the national smoking rate among high school students has fallen by 71 percent (from 28 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2016). However, the fight against tobacco is far from over:
- Tobacco use is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing over 480,000 people and costing about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.
- Tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year – $1 million every hour – to market tobacco products in the U.S., often in ways that appeal to kids.
- Electronic cigarettes have become the most popular tobacco product used by kids – nationwide, 11.3 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes compared to 8 percent who smoke cigarettes. The latest trend with teens is JUUL, an e-cigarette that looks like a computer flash drive and comes in flavors like mango and fruit medley.
- In Illinois, tobacco use claims 18,300 lives and costs $5.49 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.1 percent of Illinois’s high school students smoke.
On Kick Butts Day, kids and health advocates are calling on elected officials to implement proven strategies that make up a “roadmap to a tobacco-free generation.” These strategies include tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Health advocates in Illinois are urging state legislators to increase the statewide tobacco sale age to 21.
“On Kick Butts Day, kids are celebrating the progress we’ve made to reduce tobacco use and building momentum to get us across the finish line,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Elected leaders in every state can help create the first tobacco-free generation by supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use.”
On Kick Butts Day, kids join in creative events ranging from classroom activities to educate their peers about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to rallies at state capitols.
In Illinois, activities include:
On March 22, youth from Clinton Rosette Middle School in DeKalb will organize cigarette butt cleanups in local parks to advocate for tobacco-free environments. Time: 8–9:30 AM. Location: 1403 Sycamore Road, DeKalb. Contact: Chessa Osiecki (847) 650-3976.
Students from Eldorado Middle School will spell out an anti-tobacco message using cups in a fence and sign a pledge wall to be the first tobacco-free generation. Time: 11:30 AM–12:30 PM. Location: 1907 1st Street, Eldorado. Contact: Kim Pilkington (618) 313-1227.
Students from Red Hill Junior/Senior High School in Bridgeport will display tombstones and create a skit to perform for elementary students at Bridgeport Grade School and Sumner Attendance Center to encourage a tobacco-free community. Time: 10–10:30 AM. Location: 908 Church Street, Bridgeport. Contact: Amy Marley (618) 262-1266.
Students at the Galesburg Kuk Sool Won will participate in a “kick-a-thon” with local martial arts schools to “kick tobacco butts.” Local youth will also organize cigarette butt cleanups. Time: 6:30 PM. Location: 415 E. Main Street, Galesburg. Contact: Erin Olson (309) 337-0559.
Students from West Leyden High School in Northlake will sign a pledge wall during Safe Celebration Week and commit to a tobacco-free lifestyle. Time: 10:15 AM–12:45 PM. Location: 1000 N. Wolf Road, Northlake. Contact: Shannon O’Connor (847) 451-3122.
On March 29, youth in Carbondale will host a FACE2FACE forum at Longbranch Café & Bakery with a panel of teens and Park District board members to call for a smoke-free Turley Park. Time: 6–8 PM. Location: 100 E. Jackson Street, Carbondale. Contact: Tina Carpenter (618) 457-8877.
All events will take place March 21 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Illinois, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.