Smoke Free SLU puts on a ‘grave’ event

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Smoke Free SLU puts on a ‘grave’ event

John Schuler/ Photo Editor
Smoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

John Schuler/ Photo Editor Smoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

John Schuler/ Photo Editor Smoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

John Schuler/ Photo Editor Smoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

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John Schuler/ Photo Editor

John Schuler/ Photo Editor
Smoke Free SLU’s table in the BSC March 20 educated students on dangers of secondhand smoke.

 

The 18th annual Kick Butts Day was held today in the Busch Student Center. The event was not hosted by SLU Karate but, rather, by Smoke Free SLU as a way to stand up against Big Tobacco.

This campus event is a part of a larger nationwide promotion (over 1,200 events are planned) aimed to reduce the number of teenage smokers. Organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation, Kick Butts Day celebrates youth leadership and activism to fight tobacco use, specifically among teens.

This is achieved through education regarding the dangers of tobacco and shedding light on the tobacco industry’s tricky marketing practices.

The theme for this year highlights the way in which the tobacco industry’s advertisements entice kids to use tobacco. The Federal Trade Commission reported that tobacco companies spend $8.5 billion a year – nearly $1 million an hour – to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this money is well spent. 18.1 percent of high school students smoke and nearly 1,000 kids become regular smokers each day. Among these smokers, 86 percent prefer Marlboro, Newport and Camel; coincidentally, these brands are the most heavily advertised.
Luring kids to their products, brands are shifting to more appealing products, including cheap, sweet, colorful small cigars that resemble cigarettes. These cigars are flavored to mimic fruit and candy flavors like strawberry, vanilla, peach and apple. The U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2012 that marketing does, in fact, cause kids to not only start smoking but to continue the use of tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year.  Specifically, tobacco use in Missouri claims 9,500 lives and costs $2 billion in health care bills each year. The high school statistic is right on par with national trends, with 18.1 percent of students smoking.
“Kids will stand up and reject Big Tobacco’s manipulative marketing,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said. “It’s also a chance for elected leaders to commit to protecting kids from tobacco through policies such as tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and prevention programs.

John Schuler/ Photo EditorSmoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

John Schuler/ Photo Editor
Smoke Free SLU provides alternatives to smoking during event.

“We hope that legislators will listen to their young constituents and implement these proven solutions to reduce tobacco use and save lives.”

Kick Butts Day is a time for kids to turn the tables on Big Tobacco, hosting events that range from “They put WHAT in a cigarette!?” demonstrations, to health fairs, to rallies at state capitols.

The most visible part of the day’s events was a table set up in the Busch Student Center offering trinkets encouraging a smoke free campus and featuring tombstones decorated with facts and pithy statements about the damaging effects of secondhand smoke.

One sign read “Smoke free air is a right, not a privilege.” Another encouraged students to “blow bubbles not smoke,” with small bottles of bubbles gathered on the top of the table.

According to the group, there are up to 62,00 deaths from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.

“I do not think people realize the effects of second hand smoke,” senior Matt Ryan said, a public health student. “The science behind it illustrates that smoking is much more than an individual issue. It negatively affects everyone’s health that comes in to contact with smoke.”
Allegra Merriweather, president of Smoke Free SLU, explained, “The tombstones and body bags were the best high-impact images we [the club] could think of to convey our very meaningful message.” This message was not just directed to get people to stop smoking but also, “to empower the non-smoker to stand up for their right to tobacco-free air.”

Speaking of Smoke Free SLU’s relation to the national Kick Butts Day, Merriweather commented, “We use it as a platform to launch an open forum about second hand smoke and the future of our campus’ smoke-free status.” Beyond education, the group hopes to  inspire students  to start conversations to others.

Smoke Free SLU is not only a presence on this select day; they are constantly pushing to raise concern, change campus policies and plan active events such as Lung Cancer Awareness Month to promote their cause.