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California kids 'kick butts' March 25

Health advocates urge Congress to crack down on tobacco marketing to kids

Posted: March 20, 2009 2:30 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2009 12:00 p.m.
 

Kids across California will rally against tobacco on March 25 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 14th annual Kick Butts Day, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation.

This year, Kick Butts Day is raising awareness about continued tobacco marketing to kids and the need for Congress to crack down on these harmful practices by passing legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products.

Kick Butts Day comes on the heels of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that demonstrated how tobacco marketing continues to influence kids. The study found that youth smokers overwhelmingly prefer the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands - Philip Morris' Marlboro, Lorillard's Newport and R.J. Reynolds' Camel. These brands were preferred by 78.2 percent of middle school smokers and 86.5 percent of high school smokers. Marlboro is preferred by more high school smokers, 52.3 percent, than all other brands combined.

To protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives, health advocates are urging Congress to pass legislation granting the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the legislation earlier this month.

Among other things, this legislation would crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids. It would limit tobacco advertising in stores and in magazines with significant teen readership to black-and-white text only, eliminating the colorful images that depict smoking as cool and glamorous. It would ban outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds; end tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events; and require stores to place tobacco products behind the counter.

"We hope Kick Butts Day will inspire our nation's leaders to take long-overdue action to protect our children from tobacco and save lives," said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Tobacco products are the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, yet they have escaped even the most basic regulation to protect public health. It's time for Congress to end this special protection for the tobacco industry and protect our nation's kids and health instead."

In addition to the marketing restrictions, the bill before Congress would require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products; ban misleading cigarette descriptions such as "light" and "low-tar;" strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products; require disclosure of the contents of tobacco products; and allow the FDA to mandate changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or removal of harmful chemicals.

At the state level, health advocates are urging governors and legislators to adopt proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws, and well-funded programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.

Since the 1998 tobacco settlement, tobacco companies have nearly doubled their annual marketing expenditures, from $6.9 billion in 1998 to $13.4 billion in 2005 - more than $36 million per day, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In California, tobacco companies spend $843.8 million a year to market their products.

Nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year, and 20 percent of high school students smoke. In California, tobacco use claims 36,600 lives and costs the state $9.14 billion in health care bills a year, and 15.4 percent of high school students smoke.

On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to mock-funerals for the Marlboro Man to rallies at state capitols. Activities in California include (all events are on March 25 unless otherwise noted):

On April 19 at the Strata Sports Center in California City, the Parks and Recreation Department will encourage youth to lead a tobacco-free lifestyle by hosting a Kick Butts Day roller skating party. Time: 1 PM. Location: 10350 Heather Avenue, California City. Contact: Rita Sargent (760) 373-3530.

At the Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, students demonstrating the effects of tobacco use will display the outlines of 350 chalk bodies to represent the number of people who die in California from tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Time: 7:30 AM. Location: 3570 East Cochran Street, Simi Valley. Contact: Norman Helmuth (805) 520-6800.

The Yolo County Anti-Tobacco Youth Coalition at Pioneer High School in Woodland and South Port Elementary School in West Sacramento will celebrate Kick Butts Day with an interactive carnival where kids will learn about the dangers of tobacco use through games, trivia contests and educational displays. Time: 12 PM. Location: 1400 Pioneer Avenue, Woodland; 2747 Linden Road, West Sacramento. Contact: Jessica Estrada (415) 350-4835.

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