Students in several Iowa cities are taking part in anti-smoking campaigns today on this national Kick Butts Day.

Sydney Brookman, a seventh grader at Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School in Waverly, says she learned early on that smoking is something you shouldn’t do and she’s spreading the message to her classmates. “Tobacco can cause cancer and it’s just really bad for your health,” Brookman says. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 9% of Iowa high school students use e-cigarettes, while 9.9 percent smoke cigarettes.

Tobacco use claims 5,100 lives in Iowa each year and costs the state $1.3 billion  in health care bills. One focus of this year’s Kick Butts Day is on Juul, an e-cigarette that’s become popular among youth. Brookman says she doesn’t know anyone at her school who vapes and hopes to keep it that way.
Brookman says, “We are going to have a banner hanging in the cafeteria and we’re going to have students sign the banner during their lunch hour and make the pledge to be tobacco-free for their life.”

Students who sign the banner will get a red rubber bracelet or a promotional cup. Maddie Leary is also a seventh grader at Waverly-Shell Rock and says she’s never tried smoking and realizes it’s not good for you. “I’ve known for a while, second and third grade, we had people from the hospital come in,” Leary says. “They told us how it’s bad for you and they showed us pictures of what people’s lungs look like when they don’t smoke and what they do look like when they do smoke. I learned that way.”

Also today, students, teachers, and parents from the Benton Community Schools in Van Horne will commit to be tobacco-free and encourage peers and loved ones to quit smoking by constructing and signing a pledge wall. In Hampton, a Family Fun Night is planned, hosted by the Hampton-Dumont Community School District, where students will learn about tobacco prevention, take part in activities, and promote a smoke- and vape-free environment.