Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Georgia Kids 'Kick Butts' on March 23

/PRNewswire/ -- Kids in Georgia will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 23 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 16th annual Kick Butts Day. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events see below).

Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.

In Georgia, health advocates are calling on state leaders to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack in order to prevent kids from smoking and raise much-needed revenue to address the state's budget shortfall and fund critical programs such as health care and education. According to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a $1 cigarette tax increase in Georgia would have the following benefits:

* Raise $354.5 million in new annual revenue;
* Prevent 79,600 kids from becoming smokers;
* Spur 49,100 current adult smokers to quit;
* Save 38,400 residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and
* Save $1.8 billion in health care costs.

"On Kick Butts Day, kids are standing up to the tobacco companies, and elected officials should stand with them by supporting proven tobacco prevention measures," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We know what works to reduce smoking and other tobacco use. Every state should implement these proven solutions, including higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and smoke-free air laws."

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. While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 19.5 percent of high school students still smoke.

In Georgia, tobacco use claims 10,500 lives and costs $2.25 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 16.9 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 42,100 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.

On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to carnivals to rallies at state capitols. Activities in Georgia include (all events are on March 23 unless otherwise noted):

On March 19 in Savannah , students, parents, community leaders and other youth groups from community centers will participate in a tobacco awareness event at the Blackshear Basketball Complex/Park. Students from the Youth for a Cleaner Environment (YFACE) will hand out literature, balloons, posters and more detailing the dangers of smoking. Time: 10 AM. Location: 820 Wheaton Street, Savannah. Contact: Janice Banks James (770) 283-7591.

In Dalton, students at Dalton Middle School will paint Kick Butts-themed graffiti art on three, large vinyl backgrounds. One background will be placed in the school hallway, one at a downtown restaurant, the Dalton Depot and one at the Walnut Square Mall. Location: 1250 Cross Plains Trail, Dalton. Contact: Cassandra Cutts (724) 859-7774.

Students from the Future Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Club will sponsor an event in Savannah showing the consequences of smoking where youth will be able to visit various booths and sign a pledge wall. Time: 3 PM. Location: 2025 East 52nd Street, Savannah. Contact: Barbara Baker (912) 236-9511.

In Marietta, a student from Osborne High School will dress as the Grim Reaper, followed by students with anti-smoking signs, and walk through the cafeteria inviting other students to join the silent procession. Students will receive a totem representing their departure from a life of tobacco use. Time: 11:45 AM. Location: 2451 Favor Road, Marietta. Contact: Janet Grenleski (770) 878-0628.

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