JUNEAU – On March 15, Southeast Alaska elementary, middle and high school students will participate in the Kick Butts Day Initiative by joining thousands of advocates across the United States and beyond during a day of activism by standing out, speaking up and seizing control against tobacco.

In 2015, 11 percent of Alaska high school students smoked, and 12 percent used smokeless tobacco.[i]   Over half (54 percent) of adult smokers in Alaska were smoking regularly by the time before they were 17 years old.[ii] Among current high school smokers in Alaska, 36% percent started smoking before age 13.  At the current youth smoking rate in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 (including 14,000 Alaska youth) will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.[iii]

As part of the Kick Butts Day events this year, Southeast Alaska students plan to raise awareness about the dangers of marketing an addictive substance to youth and concerns about tobacco butts polluting our environment. In Juneau, SEARHC and NCADD will partner with the Juneau High School Sources of Strength program to investigate local tobacco retailers’ point of sale advertising practices. Students will take photos of tobacco ads in the community, and display them at the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament during the week of March 20, 2017. Those that would like to volunteer should contact Leah at (907) 364-4549 to sign up.

In Petersburg, there will be a campaign to raise awareness that cigarette butts are non-biodegradable toxic waste that pollutes the community and waterways. Petersburg youth and community members will pick up cigarette butt litter on March 18, 2017. To volunteer, contact Katie at Petersburg Indian Association at 772-3636 x123.

SEARHC, Sitka Community Hospital, and the HOPE Coalition will also host a community cigarette butt cleanup at Sitka’s Blatchley Middle School on March 13, 2017, beginning at 3:45 pm. Rumor has it that Mr. Ciggy Butts will also make an appearance. Contact Amanda at (907) 966-8745 to volunteer.

By getting involved, America’s youth send the message to Big Tobacco that they will not become just another statistic. By promoting positive messages through a wide range of activities, Alaska’s young people are helping guide their peers to a healthier, happier future through staying tobacco-free. 

For more information about Kick Butts Day, visit the website at www.kickbuttsday.org