WASHINGTON, March 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Kids in Arizona will unite against tobacco use on March 15 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States and around the world for this annual day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)

On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, reject tobacco companies’ devious marketing and urge elected officials to help make the next generation tobacco-free.

This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on how tobacco companies are enticing kids with a growing market of sweet-flavored products such as electronic cigarettes and cigars, threatening to addict a new generation. These products have proved popular with kids. From 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students jumped from 1.5 percent to 16 percent nationwide, and more kids now use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. In addition, more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes. E-cigarettes and cigars are sold in a wide assortment of candy and fruit flavors, such as gummy bear, cotton candy and fruit punch.

Tobacco companies also continue to spend huge sums to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, much of it reaching kids. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.1 billion a year – one million dollars every hour – on marketing. In Arizona, tobacco companies spend $103.7 million annually on marketing efforts.

«On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up to the tobacco industry, and our nation’s leaders must stand with them,» said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. «We’ve made great strides in reducing youth smoking, but candy-flavored products like e-cigarettes and cigars threaten this progress. We need strong FDA regulation to protect kids from these sweet-flavored products. And elected officials at all levels should support proven strategies that prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, funding prevention programs and raising the tobacco age to 21.»

In Arizona, tobacco use claims 8,300 lives and costs $2.38 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.1 percent of Arizona’s high school students smoke.

On Kick Butts Day, kids join in creative events that range from classroom activities about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to rallies at state capitols.

In Arizona, activities include:

On March 11, the Yavapai Anti-Tobacco Coalition of Youth (YACTA) will display children’s shoes to show the toll that secondhand smoke takes on children, along with posters featuring anti-tobacco messages. Time: 9 AM1:00 PM. Location: Old Town Mission, 116 East Pinal Street, Cottonwood. Contact: Jen Mabery (928) 301-6143.

Members of the Ridding Yuma Youth of Tobacco (RYYOT) youth coalition, in conjunction with the Yuma County Public Health Services District, will conduct a large scale visual demonstration in Yuma on the many hazardous chemicals found in tobacco products and how they affect both users and non-users. Time: 9 AM1 PM. Location: 4th Avenue Junior High School, 450 S. 4th Avenue, Yuma. Contact: Anhel Centeno (928) 317-4580.

Coconino Anti-Tobacco Students (CATS) and Arizona Students Aiming for Prevention (ASAP) will host a booth in Flagstaff featuring information on the dangers of tobacco as well as a display of shoes to represent how many children are exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis. Time: 2:30 – 4:30 PM. Location: Wheeler Park & City Hall Lawn, 211 W. Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff. Contact: Tiffany Kerr (928) 679-7268.

Members of the Kingman Youth Coalition Beating Up Teen Tobacco (KYCBUTT) in Kingman will create tombstones on the terrace of Metcalf Park featuring tobacco facts along with a display of shoes to show the death toll of tobacco use. Time: 1 PM. Location: Metcalf Park, 315 W. Beale Street, Kingman. Contact: Andrea Miranda (928) 753-0794.

Students Working Against Tobacco in Lake Havasu City will ask their peers to «break» the cycle of secondhand smoke by breaking popsicle sticks colored to look like cigarettes, and then throwing them away. They will also hold school spirit days with colors symbolizing opposition to tobacco use. Time: 11 AM-1 PM. Location: Lake Havasu High School, 2675 South Palo Verde Boulevard, Lake Havasu City. Contact: Debra Levi (928) 453-0734.

Students at Rincon-University High School in Tucson will lay out 50 pairs of shoes to represent the 50 Arizonans who die each hour from using tobacco. Afterwards the shoes will be donated to the Department of Child Safety. Location: Rincon-University High School, 421 N. Arcadia Avenue, Tucson. Contact: Nicole Rullo (520) 256-2179.

All events are on March 15 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Arizona, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids