Hundreds of middle and high school students in Iowa are taking part in “Kick Butts Day” rallies and events today that aim to keep young people from starting to smoke and to urge current smokers to quit. Danny McGoldrick, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says nearly 19% of Iowa high school students smoke and almost 15,000 kids in the state try cigarettes for the first time each year.
“They can speak from their own experience about how they’re targeted by the tobacco companies,” McGoldrick says. “They’ll be participating in hundreds of events around the country to bring attention to the problem of tobacco use but also the solutions to the tobacco problem. We know what to do to reduce tobacco use, we just need to put those policies and programs in place that we know work.”
He says tobacco claims 4,400 Iowans’ lives every year and costs more than one-billion dollars in health care expenses. McGoldrick says today’s events will be very visible in cities across Iowa. “There will be red ribbons on trees outside of a school in Farmington to represent the number of people who die every day from tobacco use,” McGoldrick says. “Some kids will be involved in cleaning up cigarette butts to see if their schools are making progress in getting tobacco off school campuses.”
Among other events, students at Coon Rapids-Bayard Junior Senior High School in Coon Rapids will have a contest to determine who has the best “ugly face” reaction to learning the harmful and dangerous ingredients found in cigarettes. A pledge wall will be created at Howard Junior High School in Centerville for students to sign to pledge to not use tobacco.
Iowa has already made strides, McGoldrick says, by enacting a statewide smoking ban and by raising the tax on cigarettes. “The big issue in Iowa is maintaining funding for the state’s very successful tobacco prevention and cessation program,” McGoldrick says. “The states bring in billions of dollars every year from their tobacco settlement payments and their tobacco taxes but they’re just not dedicating those monies to the kind of prevention and cessation programs that these kids get involved in and which make a difference in reducing tobacco use in the state.”
This is the 16th annual Kick Butts Day and events are planned in all 50 states. “The tobacco prevention program has been cut in Iowa over recent years and kids are going to be speaking out, saying, ‘We want to be involved, we want to help,’ but they need the prevention and cessation programs that work in order to be a part of that.”
McGoldrick says tobacco use is the number-one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year.
Learn more at: www.tobaccofreekids.org.