Students speak out against tobacco on Kick Butts Day

Posted 31 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – Students in the Orleans County YMCA after-school program at Oak Orchard Elementary School, include Nathan and Aiden, in front kneeling. In back: Alyssa, Brooklyn, Brennan, Tyler, Jacob, Grace, Elizabeth. Students show support for Kick Butts Day 2015.

Press Release, Tobacco-Free GLOW

MEDINA – Students involved in the YMCA after-school program at Oak Orchard Elementary School spoke out against the tobacco industry on March 17. Their efforts were part of national Kick Butts Day held on March 18, when youth from around the country voiced their concerns about tobacco marketing and the impact it has on their community.

“Tobacco use is still a big problem and we want to be the generation that ends it,” said Courtney Burch, program coordinator for the YMCA after-school program at Oak Orchard Elementary School in Medina. “We know that tobacco marketing is a major cause of youth smoking and we’re asking for help from our community leaders to join with us and declare ‘Enough is Enough.'”

Students from the YMCA program honored the 77 people who die every day in NYS from tobacco-related illnesses by challenging their peers and family members to write letters of concern to local elected leaders and tobacco retailers, asking them to take action on behalf of the next generation.

In addition to this local event, youth from Reality Check, a program funded through the NYS Bureau of Tobacco Control, gathered in Albany on Kick Butts Day to announce the winners of the New York State Youth Advocate of the Year Awards and four regional winners from across the state. These outstanding young advocates have demonstrated commitment, resolve and determination to advocate against the tobacco industry and spend time and energy to make their communities healthier.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, if current smoking rates continue, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 who are alive today are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related disease. In New York State, 108,500 high school students smoke cigarettes and each year more than 13,500 kids under 18 become new daily smokers.

A study released last month by the American Cancer Society has found that smoking’s toll on health is even worse than previously thought. The study found five additional diseases attributable to smoking and estimated that an additional 60,000 people die every year in the U.S. due to tobacco use, bringing the total annual death toll to 540,000.

“Smoking kills and we’ve got to protect kids from the cause,” said Jacob Chiaccia, age 12, student at Medina Central School. “Stores near schools should not have massive tobacco displays.”

In New York State, 82 percent of retailers including pharmacies, convenience stores and bodegas dedicate at least half of the space behind the checkout counter to openly visible tobacco products.

“We’ve seen enough tobacco marketing,” said Jacob. “We want to be the first tobacco-free generation.”

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sponsors Kick Butts Day. As part of this national day of youth activism, there are more than 1,000 events in schools and communities across the United States and around the world.

For more information about the harmful effects of tobacco marketing in retail stores, click here. You can also contact Tobacco-Free GLOW at 585-219-4064 or email