Teenagers in several cities across the state will be helping lead anti-tobacco campaigns as part of today’s 17th annual Kick Butts Day — an event organized by the national group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In the southern Iowa town of Albia, a handful of high school kids will be staging an event at 3:30 p.m. Monroe County Youth Tobacco Coordinator Autumn Denato says it should catch the attention of everyone passing through Albia’s city square. “They’re going to the Court House square, on the lawn, and will do a presentation with tombstones,” Denato said. “On the tombstones will be body bags with (information) describing how tobacco use can kill or hurt your health.”

A release from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states the event in Albia is one of more than 1,100 events planned across the nation. In southeast Iowa, members of the Van Buren County Youth Leadership Council will unveil a display at a bank – showing the results from a cigarette butts cleanup of the city park in Keosauqua. Heidi Bainbridge helped coordinate the cleanup effort. She said the students collected nearly two gallons worth of cigarette butts and tobacco packaging. The group has asked the Keosauqua City Council to consider banning smoking in the park.

In northeast Iowa’s Dubuque County, Robynn Graves is taking a traveling “graffiti wall” to four different high schools this week. Graves said students who sign their names and draw on the graffiti wall are pledging to be tobacco free.

National figures show that while high school smoking rates have been cut nearly in half since the mid-1990s, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students still smoke. In Iowa, tobacco use is said to claim 4,400 lives each year and a recent survey found 17% of the state’s high school students smoke.

Information on other Kick Butts Day activities in Iowa can be found here: http://www.kickbuttsday.org/events/ia.php