ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Today is National Kick Butts Day, a day used to inform the country's youth about the dangers of tobacco use.
The Department of Public Health teamed up with the Albany Boys' and Girls' Club on Jefferson Street, for an event 6:00 and organizers expect about 20-25 teenagers and several adults as well. Their goal is to stop the growing number of young adults who pick up tobacco habits; smoking and smokeless products.
Almost half a million people die each year from cigarette smoking or exposure to second hand smoke. Thousands more die from smokeless tobacco.
Smoking companies lose that many customers and more due to deaths and illnesses, and target youths to replace the users who are lost.
"They target youth, they target young adults by having candy flavored nicotine products and so this is a day where youth can stand their ground and say I will not be the next tobacco user," said Remy Hutchins, of the Department of Public Health.
Hutchins points out that quitting tobacco is also a good way to save money.
Every day more than 3,000 kids under 18 try smoking for the first time and 700 become new, regular daily smokers, says Southwest Georgia Health District Epidemiologist and Health Promotions Manager Jacqueline Jenkins.
“Kick Butts Day, March 18, is a day of activism that empowers youth to raise awareness about the tobacco problem, and encourage peers to be tobacco-free and support effective solutions to reduce tobacco use,” Jenkins said.
“As a nation we have made progress in the fight against tobacco use,” Jenkins said. “However, tobacco use continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.” It kills more than 480,000 people annually.
Events have been planned in Terrell and Dougherty counties March 18 to help boost awareness among young people about the dangers of tobacco use, Jenkins said.
“An assembly on Kick Butts Day will be conducted at the Terrell County Middle/High will feature speakers from Greater Atlanta Voice Masters who are former smokers and are now part of a laryngectomy group,” she said. At Terrell Middle, a song and poetry contest encouraging being tobacco-free will be conducted, while the high school is planning a poster contest with the theme “You can soar high without tobacco.”
Cooper-Carver Elementary School's event is a Kick Butts Day coloring contest, and rounding out Terrell County's activities will be a Selfie Scavenger Hunt.
In Dougherty County, activities will include skits, a presentation on the importance of being tobacco-free by Dougherty County Health Department Manager Remy Hutchins and a poster contest. Events are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Albany Boys and Girls Club, 1309 N. Jefferson St., in Albany.
“In Georgia, 18.8% of adults smoke, and 12.8% of high school students smoke,” Jenkins said. “Also, 15.7% of Georgia's male high school students use smokeless of spit tobacco.”
To put that in perspective, she said, the adults who die each year from their own smoking in Georgia total 11,700. “The number of kids now under 18 and alive in Georgia who will ultimately die prematurely from smoking is 204,000,” she said.
“Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined – and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes—such as fires caused by smoking (more than 1,000 deaths/year nationwide) and smokeless tobacco,” Jenkins said.
“It doesn't have to be this way,” she stressed. “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and around the world. It causes terrible and deadly diseases, including many forms of cancer, heart disease and emphysema, a lung disease. Tobacco use damages nearly every organ in the body.”
To learn more about Kick Butts Day, go to