WILLISTON PARK, NY –More than 150 students from Saint Aidan’s School in Williston Park joined over 1,000 schools and youth groups across the country on National Kicks Butt Day to take a stand against smoking and educate their peers about the dangers of tobacco.
With the help of nurses and smoking cessation experts from the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Center for Tobacco Control (CTC), students in six through eighth grade transformed their gym into a health classroom and theatre, complete with information booths, educational games, a gigantic cigarette filled with toxic substances found in real cigarettes and a “tobacco store” showing how much cigarettes cost. Trained as teachers for the day by CTC staff, eighth graders teamed up to write and produce short videos, or public service announcements, about the health dangers of smoking and tobacco advertising.
While the event had a carnival-like atmosphere, the messages to students and teachers were hard-hitting. Boys and girls are vulnerable to smoking through advertising targeted to them, and second-hand smoke poses a health risk to children.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is still a major problem among middle-school students. In the US, more than three million adolescents smoke cigarettes. Each day, 3,550 kids try their first cigarette; another 1,000 kids under age 18 become new, daily smokers. That’s approximately 400,000 new underage daily smokers in this country each year. Another startling statistic: tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans each year.
“We hope that students discover for themselves that the best way to stop smoking is to never start in the first place,” said Patricia Folan, DPN, director of the Center for Tobacco Control.
“Approximately 90 percent of all adult smokers started smoking as adolescents,” said Dr. Folan. “Our goal is to reach kids when they’re at the age where they’re going to be more vulnerable to peer pressure and smoking. Middle school is the perfect time to emphasize prevention.”
Media Contact: Betty Olt