Gift of Life Champions National Kick Butt’s Day with Activities that Raise Awareness of the Tragic Toll of Tobacco

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Special to The Leader

BEAUMONT — Members of the Gift of Life’s Youth Advisory Council are joining thousands of students across the country to commemorate National Kick Butt’s Day on March 15, an initiative that encourages youth, teachers and health advocates throughout the United States to stand up and speak out against Big Tobacco.

Gift of Life youth leaders representing 20 Southeast Texas schools will implement “peer-to-peer” awareness activities to combat the tobacco industry’s marketing efforts that target young people as their “replacement smokers” to take the place of smokers who die or quit. Using social media to increase their impact, these local teens will post “I Am Not a Replacement” awareness selfies and will institute school-wide activities and pep rallies to motivate other young people. These educational initiatives give kids a fighting chance against tobacco-use.

Studies indicate that the vast majority of smokers start as children, and in the United States 90% of all smokers start while in their teens or earlier. It is estimated that more than 250 million youth alive today will ultimately die from smoking unless rates decline.

Although traditional tobacco use (such as smoking cigarettes) is declining among youth, findings from the 2016 Surgeon General’s report indicate that current e-cigarette use among high school students increased 900%, with more teens now using e-cigarettes than cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause addiction, may harm brain development and could lead to continued tobacco use among youth.

In 2004, the Gift of Life implemented the Don’t Smoke Your Life Away Tobacco Program to address the public health epidemic from tobacco usage and educate Southeast Texans on the economic impact and healthcare hazards of tobacco. Additionally, the organization formed the Tobacco Control Coalition of Southeast Texas, which strives to reduce the appeal and acceptability of tobacco products; implement tobacco cessation initiatives; and reduce secondhand smoke exposure, which will help reduce tobacco-related disease.

Tobacco use, involving smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and one-third of all cancer deaths are attributed to tobacco products. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, homicides and suicides combined, with thousands more dying from smokeless tobacco use. The toll of tobacco also negatively impacts our economy. Tobacco costs the United States are more than $151 billion in lost productivity and $170 billion in healthcare expenditures each year.

For additional information about the Gift of Life and its anti-tobacco programming, please contact the Gift of Life at 409.833.3663.