A group of about 15 Tooele County students and community members publicly took a stand against Big Tobacco on Wednesday as part of National Kick Butts Day, a day that celebrates youth activism.
Amy Bate, public health educator at the Tooele County Health Department, has organized the event for the last four years. Each year, Tooele County students from sixth to 12th grades are invited to participate.
“Kick Butts Day is a national day that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and use control against Big Tobacco,” said Bate. “It’s not against smokers, it’s against the tobacco companies that get people smoking.”
Students held up posters in front of the health department on Tooele’s Main Street for passers-by to see — several of which garnered honks. The posters said things like “Most tobacco users want to quit,” “Big Tobacco targets youth” and “Big Tobacco says unhappiness causes cancer.”
Bate said student activists from around the U.S. celebrate the day as a way to raise awareness of tobacco-use problems in their communities and to encourage other youth to reject tobacco companies’ deceptive marketing.
“Our goal is to urge people to take action and protect kids from tobacco,” she said.
Jada Brown, a freshman at Stansbury High School, said participating in Kick Butts Day is important to her because she’s learned that 70 percent of smokers want to quit, and she wants to promote quitting.
“I think it’s important that they know the options that are open to them,” she said. “[Kick Butts Day] is a really good cause because of that.”
Katrina Clausing, an eighth grader at Clarke Johnsen Junior High School, feels the same way — especially when it comes to people her own age.
“I came out because a lot of kids are doing tobacco,” she said. “It’s not healthy. They need to understand that it’s not a good thing to do and they shouldn’t ever do it.”
Each year the local group does something different to generate awareness. Last year, Bate said life-size cutouts of celebrities were placed in schools throughout the county, and each had a message about not using tobacco. The year before, students created a human billboard — a large banner with an anti-tobacco message painted on it that they held up — and displayed it on SR-36 in Lake Point.
“We just want our community to know that we have young people that are willing to take a stand and say they’re tobacco free,” Bate said. “We want them to encourage others to do the same. If they’re not tobacco free, we want to encourage them to get help in quitting.”