WARSAW — Students from the Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition and the Baker Youth Club in Warsaw celebrated choosing a tobacco-free lifestyle by taking a #BeTheFirst pledge and participating in a game of Plinko on Wednesday, March 20.
National Kick Butts Day is an annual day of youth activism organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored in Indiana by Interact for Health.
“This event really focuses on the importance of youth advocacy as well as the importance of helping students choose to stay tobacco-free,” said Heidi Blake, Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition director.
This year, kids are focused on kicking Juul, the e-cigarette that has become enormously popular among youth across the country.
While cigarette smoking among high school students nationwide has fallen to 8.1 percent, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by an alarming 78 percent in 2018 alone — to 20.8 percent of the student population. In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. U.S. public health leaders have called youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic” that is addicting a new generation of kids.
In Indiana, 10.5 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, while 8.7 percent smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 11,100 lives in Indiana and costs the state $2.9 billion in health care bills each year.
“This year on Kick Butts Day, we’re challenging policymakers at every level to do their part to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We cannot allow e-cigarettes, especially Juul, to addict another generation and reverse the enormous progress we’ve made in reducing youth tobacco use.”
On Kick Butts Day, youth join in creative events including signing pledges to be tobacco-free, learning about the harmful chemicals in tobacco products and organizing rallies at state capitols.