WASHINGTON, March 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Kids in Pennsylvania will unite against tobacco use on March 15 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States and around the world for this annual day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)

On Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to be tobacco-free, reject tobacco companies’ devious marketing and urge elected officials to help make the next generation tobacco-free.

This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on how tobacco companies are enticing kids with a growing market of sweet-flavored products such as electronic cigarettes and cigars, threatening to addict a new generation. These products have proved popular with kids. From 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students jumped from 1.5 percent to 16 percent nationwide, and more kids now use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. In addition, more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes. E-cigarettes and cigars are sold in a wide assortment of candy and fruit flavors, such as gummy bear, cotton candy and fruit punch.

Tobacco companies also continue to spend huge sums to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, much of it reaching kids. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.1 billion a year – one million dollars every hour – on marketing. In Pennsylvania, tobacco companies spend $441.6 million annually on marketing efforts.

«On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up to the tobacco industry, and our nation’s leaders must stand with them,» said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. «We’ve made great strides in reducing youth smoking, but candy-flavored products like e-cigarettes and cigars threaten this progress. We need strong FDA regulation to protect kids from these sweet-flavored products. And elected officials at all levels should support proven strategies that prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, funding prevention programs and raising the tobacco age to 21.»

In Pennsylvania, tobacco use claims 22,000 lives and costs $6.38 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 12.9 percent of Pennsylvania’s high school students smoke.

On Kick Butts Day, kids join in creative events that range from classroom activities about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to rallies at state capitols.

In Pennsylvania, activities include:

Youth members of TRU in Erie, working with the Erie County Department of Health and the NWPA Tobacco Control Program will toss t-shirts and raffle prizes at an Erie Bayhawks game. Time: 7 PM. Location: 809 French Street, Erie. Contact: Joe DiSanto (814) 323-5650.

Students at Titusville High School will host an anti-smoking volleyball and dodgeball tournament with anti-tobacco themed balls and t-shirts. Students will also participate in a poster contest and host educational displays. Time: 2:30 PM. Location: 302 E. Walnut Street, Titusville. Contact: Scott Tenney (814) 827-2715 ext. 1213.

The Rosemont College Counseling Center will host educational tables, trivia and prize-wheels to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco among students. Time: 11:30 AM. Location: 1400 Montgomery Avenue, Rosemont. Contact: Danielle Bieber (484) 367-5328.

Students at the YWCA Titusville in Titusville will bring the community together for a People’s Choice Awards-style event featuring student-created videos about the dangers of tobacco and vaping. Time: 3:30 PM. Location: 201 N. Franklin Street, Titusville. Contact: Paula Di Gregory (814) 758-1919.

Students at Reading Intermediate High School will learn about the dangers of tobacco from the Council on Chemical Abuse and the Reading Intermediate High School JROTC student cadets, conduct a cigarette butts clean up around the school, and sign an anti-tobacco pledge. Time: 10 AM. Location: 215 N. 12th Street, Reading. Contact: Sarah Billman (610) 376-8669.

The winners of the Chester County Tobacco-Free Coalition’s «meme» contest will be announced. Middle-school students across Chester County took photos and created anti-tobacco internet memes. The winners’ memes will be made into a poster at their school. Time: 1:30 PM. Location: Saint Agnes School, 211 W. Gay Street, West Chester. Contact: Lindsay Smith (610) 344-5209.

On March 16, students at Eisenhower High School in Russell will host the 2nd Annual Health & Wellness Fair with Adagio Health and the Primary Health Network featuring educational vendors, carbon monoxide breath tests, and games and activities for students and teachers. Time: 1 PM. Location: 3700 PA-957, Russell. Contact: Claire Coffin (814) 706-9948.

All events are on March 15 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Pennsylvania, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

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SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids