Kick Butts Day Targets Big Tobacco

By Ben Feuerherd 03/20/13

Today's "National Kick Butts Day" encourages kids to stand up to the companies that want them to start smoking.

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Young people kicking butt.

Today is National Kick Butts Day, and in honor of this year's theme—"America's Most Wanted Tobacco Villains"—kids and teens nationwide will be taking a stand against tobacco companies. The youth-oriented "national day of activism" is sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, with at least 1,200 registered events organized by parents, teachers, and kids around the US. This year's message is "Hey Big Tobacco stop targeting us!" says Devin Madden, project manager for a healthier Manhattan, who helped organize a 100-person flash mob in East Harlem. Her event combines activism with education, she tells us: Kids will not only get the "chance to speak out and say we’ve had enough," but will learn about the dangers of smoking at a panel discussion with elected officials and public health advocates. At another event in Georgia, high school students are watching anti-smoking TV commercials in order to discuss the ways tobacco companies use misinformation to sell their products.

Kick Butts Day is founded on the notion that kids are more likely to listen to their peers than to adults. "When an adult says that tobacco can cause cancer and lead to premature death, it’s ultimately not as effective as when a child’s peers present these messages in an age-appropriate way," Ritney Castinethe associate director of youth advocacy for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tells The Fix. According to kickbuttsday.org, smoking kills around 400,000 people a year, but tobacco companies continue to design colorful, flashy new products intended to appeal to young people. A whopping 18.1% of high school students currently smoke, with 90% of smokers starting by the age of 18. Kick Butts Day urges young people, their families and elected officials to be aware of these manipulative marketing tactics, in order to help kids stay tobacco-free. "Preventing kids from smoking is critical to winning the fight against tobacco," says Castine. "Kick Butts Day is a chance for youth to stand up and tell Big Tobacco that they aren’t going to succumb to the billions spent to market tobacco products each year."

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter