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Alaska Kids Fights Youth Tobacco Use

National Kick Butts Day Initiative March 21, 2012

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — Young people from around the state are joining thousands of kids across the country who are taking part in Kick Butts Day, a nationwide initiative that makes kids leaders in the effort to stop youth tobacco use. As part of the Kick Butts Day celebration, Alaska students are asking their peers to remain tobacco-free.
 
On March 21st, elementary, middle and high school students across the country are organizing Kick Butts Day events to fight youth tobacco use. Young people will participate in a variety of Kick Butts Day activities such as marching to state capitals and holding rallies; meeting with elected officials; and holding flash mobs in busy community spaces. In 2011, thousands of kids carried out hundreds of events. In 2012, youth from across Alaska are participating in the following activities:
 
Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) in Juneau will host a "Wall of Hope" event at the Courthouse Plaza featuring inspiring stories of those who have quit tobacco, as well as memorializing those who have died from tobacco-related causes. Free food will be served.
Time: 12 PM. Location: 4th and Main Street, Juneau. Contact: Carter Semple (202) 365-0176.
 
Students from Chevak School in Chevak will expose the truth about the hazardous chemicals found in cigarettes, such as arsenic and ammonia, during a "They put WHAT in a cigarette?!" event. Time: 12 PM. Location: 985 KSD Way, Chevak. Contact: Angela Boyscout (908) 858-2657.
 
Students in the Peer Helpers and Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) groups at Wasilla Middle School in Wasilla will host a "Dinner of Death" where they will learn about hazardous chemicals found in cigarettes. The event will feature casserole dishes, salad bowls, and dinner platters filled with chemicals that are found in cigarettes, such as arsenic and ammonia. Time: 12 PM. Location: 650 E. Bogard Road, Wasilla. Contact: Janis Mack (907) 352-5369.
 
The Fighting Against Teen Smoking (FATS) group from Sand Point School in Sand Point will host several activities during the week of Kick Butts Day, including multiple flash mobs and a cigarette pick-up to raise awareness of the perils of youth smoking. Location: 269 Red Cove Road, Sand Point. Contact: Heather Meinert (907) 227-4046.
 
On March 23, the Mat Su Peer Helpers, Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), and Alaska Family Services will team up to host a Kick Butts Day open gym night at the AT&T Sports Center in Palmer. Kids will participate in games and learn about the virtues of healthy living. Time: 9 PM. Location: 1507 North Double B Street, Palmer. Contact: Misty Jensen (907) 715-6316.
 
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in our country,” says Sara Wilber, Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance Youth Work Group representative. “Teens all around the state are working in their communities on tobacco prevention projects to help make Alaska a healthier place. They recognize they have an important role in shaping a future and changing social norms around tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. By speaking up and taking action, they are agents of change in this preventable epidemic.”
 
Today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Every day, more than 4,000 kids try their first cigarettes; another 1,000 kids become addicted smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. In Alaska, an estimated 14 percent of high school students smoke and over 8 percent use smokeless tobacco, which means that on average in any given Alaska class of 30 high school students, four smoked a cigarette and 2-3 used smokeless tobacco within the last month.
 
Alaska has made tremendous progress in reducing youth tobacco use, yet there is more work to be done. Alaska Native students are twice as likely to use tobacco as their non-Native peers. Additionally, in Alaska rates of tobacco use among young adults aged 18-29 exceeds those of adults in all other age groups.  
      
For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website at kickbuttsday.org. For help quitting tobacco call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit alaskaquitline.com.

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