Hundreds of High School Students Rally at State House to Mark National "Kick Butts Day"
Raising the tobacco tax by $1.00 could save more than 27,000 kids from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco
BOSTON — Massachusetts celebrated national Kick Butts Day today with more than 200 young people from across the Commonwealth converging on the Massachusetts State House to recognize the contributions of teenagers in smoking cessation and prevention efforts.
The young people participating in the event are part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s youth movement, The 84, which represents the 84 percent of young people in Massachusetts who don’t smoke. High school students involved in The 84 have been educating their peers, communities and local lawmakers about tobacco issues as well as working with local health boards and other programs to promote effective tobacco prevention strategies in their communities.
“The Office of Health and Human Services is committed to the public health and safety of young people across the state,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, “We will continue to invest in innovative preventative policies that improve the quality of life and health of all people while reducing overall health care costs for the Commonwealth.”
Governor Deval Patrick has included a $1.00 cigarette tax increase in his FY 2014 budget proposal. The proposal also includes closing the loophole in the way other tobacco products, including those aggressively marketed to youth, are taxed. When the cost of tobacco increases, it has been shown that youth tobacco use decreases. Increasing the tobacco tax by just $1.00 could save more than 27,000 young people from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco.
“The Surgeon General has said that raising the price of tobacco products is one of the most effective strategies for reducing youth tobacco use,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, the Interim Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, who moderated the event. “Raising the cigarette tax is the simplest way to ensure a price increase that maximizes the public health benefit.”
At the event, Dr. Smith released a report showing that, in 2011, for the first time, the rate of high school students’ cigar use in the past 30 days (14.3 percent) was the same as the rate of cigarette use (14.0 percent). Among male students in 12th grade, 27 percent reported cigar use within the past 30 days. Little cigars, such as those sold individually in flavors like grape, cherry and vanilla for less than $1 a piece, are targeted to young people.
“We need to address the rise in youth-use of these flavored, cheap cigars now, and we need to do it decisively,” said Dr. Smith. “Increasing the tax on these cheap cigars is the most effective strategy to reverse this troubling trend.”
Kick Butts Day is a national tobacco observance started by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. This is the fifth year Kick Butts Day has been celebrated in Massachusetts with an event at the State House.
Young people spoke with their legislators about the work they are doing in their communities to counter the tobacco industry’s influence. They have been fighting the way tobacco industry uses low prices, glitzy packaging and easy availability to market its products to youth.
At the Kick Butts Day event, DPH presented awards to young people who have demonstrated effective leadership in their communities. Five regional awards were presented: Brittani Jones of Dorchester for the Boston region; Kervin Hilaire of Brookline for the MetroWest region; Maryan Abo of Everett for the Northeast region; Lauren Roderigues of Westport for the Southeast region; and Nathan Diaz of Springfield for the Western region. This year’s statewide Leadership award winner is Carolin Frias of Lynn. The Malden YWCA won this year’s 84 Chapter award.
Download the Report
- Youth Tobacco Use in Massachusetts: Survey Results from 1993-2011 file size 1MB file size 3MB
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