WASHINGTON, March 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Kids in Florida 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 Florida, tobacco companies spend $563.9 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 Florida, tobacco use claims 32,300 lives and costs $8.64 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 5.2 percent of Florida’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 Florida, activities include:

On March 10, kids from Bonifay Middle School in Bonifay will host their annual Kick Butts Day Kick Ball Tournament to «knock Big Tobacco out of the park!» Students will sign petitions to make facilities in Miami tobacco-free. Time: 8:30 AM. Location: Baseball/Softball Field, 401 McLaughlin Avenue, Bonifay. Contact: Christopher Lauen (850) 326-0831.

The Citrus County Health Department Tobacco Prevention Specialists and Students Working Against Tobacco in Lecanto will provide a half-day Kick Butts Day experience where kids will learn about how big tobacco targets kids. Time: 12 PM. Location: 4127 W. Norvell Bryant Highway, Lecanto. Contact: Chloe Hale (352) 270-2508.

Students from the Dr. John Long Middle School Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Club in Wesley Chapel will educate their peers on the dangers of tobacco and encourage them to not become a replacement smoker with a photo booth in the courtyard. Time: 8 AM. Location: 2025 Mansfield Boulevard, Wesley Chapel. Contact: Anna-Maria Livdal (813) 484-2432.

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members will encourage students from Emerald Cove Middle School in Wellington to be the first tobacco-free generation and invite them to sign a #BeTheFirst pledge wall. Time: 8:55 AM. Location: 9950 Stribling Way, Wellington. Contact: Christina Haynes (770) 468-0051.

Florida Health Palm Beach County and Roger Dean Stadium will work with Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) in Jupiter to raise awareness on action to pass tobacco-free park and beach policies by staging a mock cleanup and collecting public opinion data. Time: 11:30 AM. Location: 4751 Main Street, Jupiter. Contact: Janiece Davis (561) 578-1909.

Students from Franklin County School SWAT and the Franklin County Department of Health will raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco in Apalachicola by setting up booths in schools with quit kits, pledge cards and sugarless gum. Time: 8 AM. Location: 98-12th Street, Apalachicola. Contact: Gina Moore (850) 370-0909.

On March 23, in an effort to bring awareness to the dangerous effects of tobacco, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee will host a «Rally Against Tobacco» with a graveyard representing tobacco deaths, handouts that encourage a smoke-free campus policy, and vendors from major health organizations. Time: 12 PM. Location: 334 Palmer Avenue W., Tallahassee. Contact: Mary Simmons (850) 264-7164.

All events are on March 15 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Florida, 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