DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Youths are taking center stage in the fight against tobacco, kicking butts to the curb.
“They’re standing up to the tobacco companies and saying we’re not going to take it anymore, ” stated Danny McGoldrick, Vice President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
It’s the 19th year for National Kick Butts Day with kids spreading the word about the dangers of smoking.
Currently, youth are the most dangerous threat to the tobacco industry, that’s why Missouri youth advocate Alex Higginbotham got involved.
“Statistics like the fact that six million people die every year worldwide due to tobacco just blow me away,” said Higginbotham. “I can’t look at statistics like that and understand how someone wouldn’t want to get involved.”
Fifty years after the first surgeon general’s report, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in this country, killing 480,000 Americans every year and 18,000 in Ohio.
“Ohio once had one of the best owned, best operated prevention programs in the country and essentially eliminated it several years ago, even though it was working to reduce smoking among kids and adults and to saving lives and healthcare dollars in Ohio,” said McGoldrick.
Ohio, Governor John Kasich recently proposed a tax increase and funding to put the tobacco prevention program back in place. McGoldrick says that’s a great first step, but it isn’t good enough.
“You need a kind of a shock to the system. You need a significant tax increase to actually have an impact on youth and adult smoking,” said McGoldrick.
He wants to expose the manipulative nature of tobacco companies that disguise cigarettes with colorful packaging and fruit flavors.
“I talked to a woman recently who said that her son brought her one, and said ‘mom, I want to try this new candy.’ Without even looking, she said okay and put it on the counter before she realized oh my goodness this is tobacco,” said Higginbotham.
But he believes he as well as other youths can make a difference.
“No matter how young you are or what background you might come from, you have a voice, and it matters.”