Apr. 7 1999
Washington, DC - Kids around the country are stepping up to the front lines of the tobacco wars on April 14, as they join thousands of young people in the fourth annual Kick Butts Day. State legislators across the country continue to debate funding for tobacco prevention programs from last year’s historic $240 billion tobacco settlement. Meanwhile, kids all over the United States are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to fighting youth tobacco use. In New York City, kids are surveying hotels’ smoking policies and will present an award on Kick Butts Day to the lodging establishment with the best record. In Kansas City, high school students have conducted an undercover sting operation of more than 150 local convenience stores; they will announce the number of stores willing to sell tobacco to minors at a press conference on Kick Butts Day. In Louisiana, kids will take to the streets, parading through Natchitoches and holding a funeral for Mr. Butts, complete with a hearse and coffin. In Denver, kids have been collecting tobacco advertising in the magazines they read and will cover a soccer goal with their collage. On Kick Butts Day, they will gather on the steps of the State Capitol to kick the ads down with soccer balls. In Akron, Ohio, kids will hear from Vice President Al Gore, who will release important new research findings on kids and tobacco on Kick Butts Day. Gore has been a regular participant in Kick Butts Day events, as have other members of the Clinton Administration. "I am deeply concerned about the high level of tobacco use among our nation’s youth," said Gore. "I have participated in Kick Butts Day for three years now, because it's an excellent opportunity to get the message out that childhood should be tobacco-free. Kick Butts Day encourages kids to stand up to tobacco and encourages adults to stand up with them." Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala will attend the national kickoff for Kick Butts Day in Washington, D.C., where a leading youth advocate will present them with the results of a new survey on teens and tobacco advertising conducted by the CAMPAIGN. This pep rally, with a sports theme, will be held in the MCI Center’s National Sports Gallery at 10:30 a.m. Kick Butts Day 1999, a day that helps kids become leaders and advocates in the battle against tobacco, is co-sponsored by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and New York City Public Advocate Mark Green. Now in its fourth year, Kick Butts Day will include young people from cities and towns in all 50 states carrying out more than 1,000 events designed to educate their peers about tobacco addiction and harm and to reduce kids’ access to tobacco products. Their creative methods will capture the attention of their peers, policy makers and community and business leaders. Among other activities, students in participating schools, community, civic, religious and other groups will conduct surveys of tobacco advertising near their homes and schools, lobby local businesses to go smoke-free and hold mock trials for the Marlboro Man. Across Minnesota, kids are bringing to school photographs of loved ones who died or are sick from tobacco-related illnesses; the pictures will be combined into a giant memorial wall in the State Capitol Rotunda in early May. In Michigan, the Junior Leagues across the state have joined forces in a variety of anti-tobacco events, including rallies and petitions to local restaurants to ban smoking. In Maryland, the attorney general and Miss Maryland will speak to kids at Owings Mills High School about tobacco. “Kids are particularly effective advocates against youth tobacco use when they speak with one voice – as they do on Kick Butts Day,” said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN. “Their peers -- and adults -- listen to them when they talk about how kids are being targeted as replacement smokers for the 400,000 smokers who die every year from tobacco-related disease and for others who manage to quit.” Since Kick Butts Day 1998, all 50 states have settled their lawsuits with the tobacco industry for $240 billion and state lawmakers are now deciding how to spend that money. While public health advocates want a significant portion of the money earmarked for health care and tobacco control, many states are considering spending the money on anything from highway repairs to reducing the car tax, as well as other general revenue needs. “The multi-state settlement was designed to reimburse states for their tobacco-related medical costs,” said Green, New York’s public advocate. “The best use of that money is to prevent another generation from getting hooked on tobacco.” Every day, 6,000 kids smoke cigarettes for the first time, and 3,000 become regular smokers. One-third of these regular smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease. Kick Butts Day 1999 is co-sponsored by American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Cancer Society; American Heart Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Association of School Administrators; American Federation of Teachers; American Medical Association; American Public Health Association; American School Counselor Association; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America; Channel One Network; Children’s Defense Fund; Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.; Girls, Inc.; Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco; National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions; Nationals Association of School Nurses; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Education Association; National Federation of State High School Associations; National Middle School Association; Oral Health America; YMCA of the USA; YWCA of the U.S.A. and Youth Service America. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children and making tobacco less accessible to kids. For more information about Kick Butts Day 1999 and youth tobacco control advocacy, email the CAMPAIGN at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the status of tobacco settlement spending by state, visit the CAMPAIGN’s website at www.tobaccofreekids.org. # # # Note to media: Additional Kick Butts Day activities are being announced daily. Please call Ronne Ostby-Malling at (202) 296-5469, ext. 3055 for the latest information.