Mississippi Kids to 'Kick Butts' on March 18

State Leaders Urged to Support Tobacco Prevention Initiatives

On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to stay tobacco-free, demand that tobacco companies stop marketing deadly, addictive products to them and encourage elected officials to do more to reduce youth tobacco use.

This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on how the tobacco industry still spends huge sums on marketing and is adopting new strategies to reach young customers. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion a year – one million dollars every hour – to market tobacco products. In Mississippi, tobacco companies spend $121.4 million annually on marketing efforts. The industry's tactics that entice kids include:

  • Splashy ads in magazines with large youth readership, such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine and Rolling Stone.

  • Widespread advertising and price discounts in stores, which make tobacco products appealing and affordable to kids.

  • New, sweet-flavored tobacco products such as small cigars and electronic cigarettes. The latest surveys show that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed.

In addition to organizing events, kids are standing up to the tobacco industry on social media through the #NotAReplacement selfie campaign. The tobacco industry's own documents reveal that they have long targeted kids as "replacement smokers" for the more than 480,000 people their products kill each year in the United States. Kids are taking selfies to say they're not a replacement and sharing the photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the #NotAReplacement hashtag. (view the #NotAReplacement selfie gallery)

"On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up and reject Big Tobacco's manipulative marketing," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We can make the next generation tobacco-free and end the tobacco epidemic for good. Elected officials can help reach that goal by standing with kids and supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws and prevention programs."

In Mississippi, tobacco use claims 5,400 lives and costs $1.23 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, an alarming 17.2 percent of Mississippi's high school students smoke.

On Kick Butts Day, kids engage in creative events that range from small classroom activities about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to large rallies at state capitols.

In Mississippi, activities include:

On March 14, the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Oktibbeha, Clay & Lowndes will partner with the Columbus Housing Authority to hold a program about the history of Kick Butts Day, write anti-tobacco messages with cups in a fence, and organize tombstones with tobacco facts to raise awareness about tobacco's harmful effects. Time: 3 PM. Location: 1713 12th Avenue, North Columbus. Contact: Yolanda Pruitt (662) 251-7176.

The Community Students Learning Center; Holmes County School District; Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Madison, Yazoo and Holmes Counties; and local public officials will hold an anti-tobacco rally and create a memorial wall at Holmes County Central High School in Lexington. Time: 8 AM. Location: 9479 Brozville Road, Lexington. Contact: Beulah Greer (601) 834-0905.

Columbus Air Force Base will celebrate Kick Butts Day with live music, games, poetry readings, dance performances and other activities to inform the community about the risks of tobacco use. Time: 4 PM. Location: 108 Similer Boulevard, Columbus. Contact: Santee Ezell (901) 417-9005.

Students from Columbia Primary School will invent and dress up as tobacco-fighting superheros who "kick butts." Time: 1:30 PM. Location: 913 W. Avenue, Columbia. Contact: Crystal Wallace (601) 736-2216.

On March 20, the Boys and Girls Club of Lauderdale County will educate the Meridian community by wearing t-shirts with a body organ on the front and a message honoring a loved one who died from a tobacco-related disease or a statistic about the negative impact of tobacco on the back. Time: 4:30 PM. Location: 1717 45th Avenue, Meridian. Contact: Sabrina Wilson (601) 479-0753.

All events are on March 18 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Mississippi, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

(PRNewswire-USNewswire)

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