By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Students at William Ford Elementary School filled the computer lab wearing informational T-shirts that read, “smoking is bad for you!” and “don’t let cigarettes control you” promoting tobacco-free children.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders presented brochures on March 18, filled with anti-smoking facts they learned as part of national Kick Butts Day.
Students across the country celebrated national Kick Butts Day with 1,000 events of youth activism March 16, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“We set aside time for students to conduct their research every Friday where they learned about the marketing of tobacco companies toward children,” William Ford Elementary Resource Teacher Fatima Abdulla said. “This is a great way for students to learn first-hand about the harmful world of tobacco.”
The day focused on the marketing tactics tobacco companies use to target youth, including ads in magazines with large youth readership, such as Sports Illustrated, Glamour and Rolling Stone, and widespread advertising and price discounts in stores, making tobacco products appealing and affordable to children.
“On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up to the tobacco industry, and all of us, especially our elected officials, should stand with them,” President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Matthew Myers said in a press release.
In Michigan, health advocates are supporting a statewide bill to prohibit tobacco sales to anyone under age 21, a move that will reduce tobacco use among young people and save lives, according to the press release.
“Sweet-flavored tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and small cigars that come in flavors like Gummy Bear, cotton candy, watermelon and fruit punch,” the press release stated. “While youth cigarette smoking has fallen to record lows, the most recent government survey shows that e-cigarette use among high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014 (from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent).”
In Michigan, tobacco use claims 16,200 lives and costs $4.6 billion in health care bills each year, while tobacco companies spend $308.8 million annually on marketing efforts.
“We’ve made amazing progress in reducing youth smoking and can make the next generation tobacco-free,” Myers said. “Elected officials in every state should help reach that goal by supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, prevention programs and raising the tobacco age to 21.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)