National Kick Butts Day is Wednesday, March 19.
Young people from the Kingsford SADD Chapter are joining thousands of kids across the country who are taking part in Kick Butts Day, a day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against big tobacco at events across the United States and around the world.
Locally, as part of the Kick Butts Day celebration, five officers from the Kingsford SADD group are working in partnership with the Dickinson-Iron Tobacco Free Community Coalition.
This year, the focus is on assisting local schools to expand their tobacco-free school policies to include off campus school-sponsored events. The majority of schools have policies that reflect a tobacco-free campus.
The SADD officers are passionate about this issue because even as students and teenagers, they understand the importance of keeping the message consistent wherever a school function might be held, whether on or off campus.
In addition, these same students have been involved in a local "Community Scan" project where they went to visit retailers and noted those selling "new emerging" tobacco products, such as snus, orbs and hookah.
"Big Tobacco is always coming out with something new and people need to be aware of what's out there," said Kelly Rumpf, Health Educator for the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
There are more than 15,200 new youth smokers each year in Michigan, and nearly 300,000 kids alive in Michigan today will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease, she said.
In 2011 the tobacco industry spent more than $275 million to market their products in Michigan. In comparison, Michigan spends only $1.5 million on tobacco prevention programming annually.
"The good news is that there are a number of evidence-based programs and policy changes, which are being implemented by local communities and the state tobacco program, that can help us reduce smoking rates," said Rumpf. "24/7 tobacco-free schools, tobacco-free outdoor recreation areas, smoke-free multi-unit housing, and increasing access to tobacco dependence treatment options are all effective in reducing youth and adult tobacco use rates."
In addition to the tobacco prevention work taking place in communities around the state, there are evidence-based policy changes at the state level that would drastically reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use in Michigan, she said.
Increasing the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products is the single most effective way to reduce youth and adult tobacco use rates, especially when a portion of the revenue generated is dedicated to tobacco prevention programming.
Additionally, Michigan could spend a portion of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) funds on tobacco prevention programming. The MSA is an accord reached in 1998 between the state Attorneys General of 46 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the five largest tobacco companies in America concerning the advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products, which also requires the tobacco industry to pay the settling states approximately $10 billion annually for the indefinite future.
Although the intent of the MSA payments was to prevent and reduce tobacco use, especially among young people, Michigan does not spend any of the MSA revenue on tobacco prevention programming, Rumpf said.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Michigan, killing more than 14,500 people each year. Some 23.3 percent of Michigan adults, and 14 percent of Michigan youth smoke cigarettes.
Tobacco use costs the state $3.4 billion in health care costs annually.
For more information about tobacco prevention in the community contact Rumpf at 779-7234.
For help in quitting tobacco use, talk with your health care provider or contact the Michigan Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-784-8669. For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website at kickbuttsday.org.