This is the 21st annual Kick Butts Day in Nebraska as teenagers across the state unite to spread an anti-smoking message in their schools and communities.
Gustavo Torrez, director of youth advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says events will range from small classroom activities about harmful ingredients in cigarettes to large rallies.
Torrez says, “Young people will advocate for issues that they’re seeing within their local community to help either reduce youth smoking rates or educate their community on the importance of smoke-free air laws.”
Tobacco companies are spending almost $10-billion a year to market their products nationwide, which Torrez says translates to $64-million a year spent on tobacco marketing just in Nebraska. Many of those ads, he says, center on Nebraska teens.
“The magazine advertisements in Glamour, Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated really heavily market towards young people and have high youth readership,” Torrez says. “We also see the ads in convenience stores. You can’t walk into a convenience store today without seeing tobacco industry ads, marketing their product.”
The tobacco industry uses “outrageous” marketing tactics to target youth, Torrez says, including the introduction of sweet-flavored products like e-cigarettes and small cigars that come in flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy and watermelon.
“The high school smoking rate here in Nebraska is 10.9%,” Torrez says. “While that’s below the national average, it’s still way too many young people using these products which shows there’s a lot of work that we still need to do.”
Torrez says tobacco use is the nation’s number-one preventable cause of death, killing more than 480,000 people and costing the nation $170-billion in health care bills every year.