‘Kick Butts Day’ seeks to offset rise in smoking

by Andy Skemp

Smokers looking for an inspiration to quit need look no further than the thousands of young students making strides in the campaign as part of “Kick Butts Day.”
This is the fourth year that elementary school students across the nation will participate in a variety of anti-tobacco activities, including parades and mock trials of the Marlboro Man.
“I think it’s important because it helps raise awareness and get kids involved,” said Harry A. Lando, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University. “(High school students) are one of the largest groups of smokers, especially in Minnesota.”
Lando dedicates much of his studies to smoking intervention, smoking policy issues and smoking cessation.
Children around the state are bringing to school pictures of family and friends who are sick or have died from tobacco related diseases.
In May, these photos, which represent approximately 6,400 Minnesotans who die every year from smoking, will go up on a memorial wall to be assembled at the state Capitol as part of a nationwide campaign for tobacco-free children.
And while children seem to dedicated to the anti-smoking campaign, University students don’t share this attitude.
“We’re seeing more smoking in University students as well, which is surprising,” Lando said.
Lando’s observation is supported by the Core Institute’s drug and alcohol survey. Every year the University, along with more than 170 other colleges in the United States, contributes data to the institute on drug and alcohol use.
In 1994, the collected data showed that 29 percent of students nationally had used tobacco products — cigarettes, chew or snuff — in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. In 1996, that percentage climbed to 34.
At the University, Boynton Health Service annually administers the College Student Health Survey, which collects data on drug and alcohol use. The data from 1998 showed not only an increase in overall use of tobacco by undergraduate and graduate students, but an even greater increase in first-year students.
According to the survey, 36 percent of the students on the Twin Cities campus had used tobacco in the last 30 days, while 53 percent of first-year students affirmed the same.
Despite the growing number of college smokers, some students said quitting may be a bit easier with some inspiration from children.
“Perfect, it’ll give me an excuse to quit,” said James Beyers, a College of Liberal Arts senior.
Some institutions sponsoring the day are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, the Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, and Girl Scouts.
Additionally, celebrities hope to contribute to the fight. Tonight at the Mall of America, Leslie Nuchow will perform, bringing her anti-tobacco message to Minnesota.
Nuchow was offered a lucrative recording contract with recording company Women Thing Music. However, she decided to turn down the offer when she discovered the company was owned by Virginia Slims tobacco company and that the her compact disc would be available only with the purchase of two packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes.
In response, Nuchow has founded the Virginia SLAM! Organization, a group committed to keeping tobacco money out of the music business.
“For the tobacco companies to lie, manipulate and coerce people into buying their products, that’s bad enough,” Nuchow said. “But to use music to do that is unconscionable to me. To target young people through the medium of music is immoral.”