Apr. 2 1998
Washington, DC - Thousands of young people all over the country are joining the front lines of the Tobacco Wars today as part of the third annual Kick Butts Day. Kids in more than 300 cities from every state in the nation, Puerto Rico and even Korea are fighting back against the tobacco industry’s manipulative efforts to entice them to smoke and are asking Congress to do the same. Joining the nation’s young people will be Vice President Al Gore, who will address students at Washington, DC’s Hine Junior High School. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala will stand up with Cleveland-area students as they toss tobacco merchandise into a dumpster and Education Secretary Richard Riley will support Detroit-area students as they dump cigarette butts into a pool of water in a show of disgust for smoking and tobacco products. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Togo West and officials from a total of 17 federal agencies will also help promote or take part in Kick Butts Day activities around the country to underscore the Administration’s commitment to this crucial public health issue. They will be joined by elected officials at all levels – including state attorneys general, mayors and state legislators – in standing up with America’s kids in the fight against tobacco. Also this week, Mr. Butts, the Doonesbury character created by Garry Trudeau and the namesake of Kick Butts Day, will reappear in the famous syndicated strip to support America’s kids in their battle against Big Tobacco. Mr. Butts made a six-day appearance in honor of Kick Butts Day 1997 to focus the nation’s attention on the tobacco industry’s efforts to lure minors into a lethal addiction. Meanwhile, kids all over the country are taking matters into their own hands. In Jackson, MS, students will hold a press conference with State Attorney General Mike Moore to release the results of a 10-city undercover buying operation they conducted to check compliance with a new law prohibiting the sale or transfer of tobacco products to minors. In Denver, CO, hundreds of students collected cigarette butts from public areas around the state and will fill giant baby bottles with them on the state capitol steps, as they explain to elected officials, parents and others why they believe tobacco should not be a part of childhood. In Houston, TX, students will rally at city hall and send letters to the mayor urging him to ban smoking in public places. In Spartanburg, SC, high school students will dress in black and keep silent all day as a memorial to the thousands of kids who will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease. And in Green Bay, WI, middle school students are circulating a petition asking Green Bay Packer Brett Favre to quit using spit tobacco and to keep his new restaurant smoke free. "In 1997, America’s kids showed they have a powerful voice in the fight against tobacco," said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, which is cosponsoring the event with New York City Public Advocate Mark Green. "This year, that voice has grown even louder." "An event that started as a mere hope has exploded into a force to be reckoned with," said cosponsor Green, who originated the idea for Kick Butts Day in 1996. "Companies that push tobacco on minors take note: we will snuff out underage tobacco marketing just as we extinguished Joe Camel." This year’s Kick Butts Day has more than tripled in size from last year’s 82-city national tobacco control youth activism day, as enthusiasm rises among young people to stop letting the tobacco industry profit at their expense. Kicking off this year’s activities will be a nationally aired PBS special on teen smoking co-hosted by young supermodel Tyra Banks. "In the Mix," an award-winning PBS newsmagazine series for young people, will also feature an interview with CAMPAIGN President Bill Novelli during the half-hour special, "Smoking: The Truth Unfiltered," scheduled to air the week of March 28. The program takes an in-depth look at the reality of tobacco and addiction, shown through the experience of "In the Mix" reporter 19-year-old Andrea Barrow, a regular smoker. On April 2, Anna Markee, the CAMPAIGN’s 1997 Youth Advocate of the Year, will appear on the Rosie O’Donnell Show to talk about Kick Butts Day and the ways in which young people are getting involved in the fight for a smoke-free future. This surge in youth activism comes as Congress considers historic legislation that would drive down youth smoking rates and drastically curtail tobacco marketing to kids. While it’s unclear whether Congress will pass a comprehensive, national tobacco control plan this year, America’s young people are showing Congress that there is no question that they are tired of the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics. Meanwhile, the evidence mounts confirming the need for a comprehensive national tobacco control plan. Smoking among high school seniors has reached a 19-year high. Every day, 6,000 kids pick up a cigarette for the first time, and 3,000 of them become addicted, daily smokers. One-third of them will die prematurely due to tobacco-related disease, if youth smoking trends are not reversed. Thousands of elementary, middle and high school students from Maine to Hawaii are striking back against Big Tobacco by organizing activities to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s powerful promotional strategies aimed at luring kids into a lifetime of addiction. The students in participating schools, community, civic and religious groups are carrying out a variety of tobacco-control activities, such as conducting surveys of tobacco advertising near their homes and schools; lobbying local officials to support anti-tobacco ordinances; holding mock funerals for the Marlboro Man; conducting undercover buying operations; and tossing hats, jackets and other items carrying tobacco brand names into dumpsters. Kick Butts Day 1998 is organized in partnership with Channel One Network. Supporting sponsors include the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical Association, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., Girls, Inc., National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, National Federation of State High School Associations and National Middle School Association. 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 1998 and youth tobacco-control advocacy, email the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids at firstname.lastname@example.org. Internet address: www.tobaccofreekids.org.