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Thousands of New Jersey high school and middle school students throughout the state are stepping up to the plate this week to fight against the tobacco industry’s marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products to teens and to help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke.
Wednesday, April 2, is national Kick Butts Day, and local chapters of REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies), New Jersey’s statewide, youth-led anti-tobacco movement, are organizing hundreds of community and school-based activities to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco smoke.
New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard said the Department is pleased with the high level of participation from New Jersey youth in the Kick Butts Day observance. “The range of programs and events demonstrate the commitment these students have to educate their peers about the harm caused by smoking,’’ the commissioner said.
Cigarette use has declined significantly among high school students from 27.6 percent in 1999 to 15.8 percent in 2006. REBEL, which began in 2000, has 9,000 members in high schools statewide. The Department’s Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is reaching out to New Jersey youth in a variety of ways including educating them about the harmful effects of tobacco use and changing social norms around smoking. The Department is working to prevent teen smoking through Internet advertising, an anti-tobacco website (www.njrebel.com) and peer-to-peer tobacco education programs in their schools and communities.
More than 300 New Jersey schools have scheduled activities ranging from poster contests and displays to information tables and student assemblies to Kick Butts Day carnivals and fairs. Examples include at least a dozen schools scheduled to clean cigarette butts from parks, beaches, main streets and around their campuses. Several schools have developed print ads and public service announcements for in-school distribution and Kick Butts Day postings on community television channels.
Other schools have created displays that represent the death toll from tobacco use: 1200 pinwheels, stuffed toys, or cutout human figures to commemorate the 1200 people who die every day from tobacco-related illnesses in the United States; a “72 second killer” display for the fact that one person dies every 72 seconds; and the “mysterious 35” which is revealed to be the number that die every day in New Jersey.
Rahway High School REBEL will host a legislative breakfast for local politicians and school officials to promote awareness of tobacco harm and REBEL. Hackensack High School and Hackensack Hospital are co-hosting a program to increase awareness of the link between asthma and tobacco smoke.
REBEL chapters have created collaborative events such as “Choose to Be Tobacco Free” sponsored by Ocean County REBEL, seven local schools and the Ocean County Community Partnerships Organization. The program will teach refusal skills and healthy lifestyles choices to more than 1,000 students and teachers.
On April 1, Kick Butts Day will be announced and REBEL recognized during a NETS basketball game attended by more than 600 students in REBEL gear from six northern New Jersey counties. Cape May Community College and all six Cape May high schools will hold a Kick Butts Day Fair on the college campus, and REBEL students from ten Mercer County high schools will convene on The College of New Jersey campus to place 1200 pinwheels and meet with college students to talk about the dangers of smoking.
Kick Butts Day is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national leader in the fight to reduce tobacco use and to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360