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March 21 marks the 17th annual Kick Butts Day – a national day devoted to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco – and an opportunity for the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (the Center) to promote local tobacco-free school policies.
The Center stresses the importance of prevention because research shows that over 80 percent of adult smokers begin before the age of 18. Each year in North Dakota, 600 kids become new daily smokers and purchase 1.7 million packs of cigarettes.
Eleven thousand kids now under the age of 18 in North Dakota will ultimately die prematurely from smoking, which is why the Center works with public health units across the state to promote tobacco prevention and comprehensive tobacco-free policies in schools and communities.
Since the comprehensive program was put into place the number of North Dakota school districts that have adopted comprehensive tobacco-free policies has increased from 60 to 102. These policies eliminate not only cigarette use but also all other types of tobacco use on school grounds and at school events, which protect students, faculty, staff and visitors from exposure to all tobacco use.
“Kick Butts Day is an important part in our fight against the harmful effects of tobacco use and to help spread the word about the harms of tobacco,” said Susan Kahler, Bismarck Burleigh Public Health. Bismarck area students who attended the 6th Annual Bismarck Tobacco Prevention Youth Summit last fall, developed public service announcements (PSA’s) to educate their peers. St. Mary’s Middle School developed a radio PSA titled “I’d Get” and Wachter Middle School developed a TV PSA titled “How much would you be willing to pay for bad breath and smoker’s cough?” PSA’s and video productions are viewable atBismarck Tobacco Free or Breathe ND’s You Tube page
Bismarck area school students will be holding Kick Butts Day activities: The activities will be focused on educating peers about the harmful effects of using tobacco products and promoting the ND Quitline, and ND Quitnet.
Research shows the Center’s partnered efforts are working. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, youth smoking rates have dropped from 22.4 percent in 2009 to 19.4 percent in 2011.
“We’re excited about our success, but our work has just started,” said Jeanne Prom, Executive Director of the Center. “Kick Butts Day is another tool we have to help prevent youth from ever using tobacco by implementing tobacco-free school policies.” Prom said tobacco-free policies are a Center for Disease Control and Prevention Best Practice that has been proven to successfully reduce both youth and adult tobacco use.
To learn about Kick Butts Day programs taking place in your community, contact Susan Kahler at (701) 355-1595 or go to www.breathend.com to see the North Dakota tobacco-free school listing and to learn more about comprehensive tobacco-free school policies.