WEIRTON - On Wednesday and Thursday kids in Weirton took the opportunity to stomp out tobacco use for the second year in a row in honor of National Kick Butts Day.
The local RAZE group spent time with children at the Weirton Christian Center, hosting activities featuring anti-tobacco education throughout the day. Pre-schoolers took turns kicking "Mr. Butt," a shield made to look like a pack of cigarettes.
"Our goal is to show kids what tobacco can do to your lungs and body," said Rachel Serrise, RAZE coordinator.
TAKE THAT — Pre-schooler Damien Eddy, left, winds up to kick “Mr. Butt” in honor of National Kick Butts Day at the Weirton Christian Center. According to Rachel Serrise, right, the annual celebration aims to educate children about the health risks associated with smoking. -- Shae Dalrymple
The event was one of more than 1,400 planned across the nation for Kick Butts Day, an annual celebration of youth activism in the fight against tobacco organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The goal is to educate communities about the tobacco industry's harmful marketing practices, representatives said.
According to the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, smoking kills 480,000 people in the U.S. and costs the nation at least $289 billion in health care bills and other economic losses each year.
Without urgent action, statistics show, 47,000 children alive now, in West Virginia alone, will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking. Currently, 18.6 percent of the state's high school students smoke.
"On the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's report, we need bold action to create a tobacco-free generation and end the tobacco epidemic for good," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
(Dalrymple can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)