Kick Butt's Day 2012: Surgeon General Supports 84 Youth in the Fight Against Big Tobacco
Nearly 250 members of The 84 Movement gathered on March 21st to celebrate Kick Butts Day 2012- what an excellent turn-out! The activities kicked off bright and early with a breakfast at St. Paul's Cathedral to fuel the students for a jam-packed day. The teens donned matching T-shirts to show solidarity and, together, they practiced their talking points for their meetings with legislators later in the afternoon.
Members of The 84 Movement are not new to talking about the harm of cheap tobacco products. They conduct trainings and provide education to their peers throughout the school year, but Kick Butts Day is a special day to share their message with the people who write the laws in Massachusetts.Â This year's Kick Butt's Day message was clear: tobacco products are made too attractive to youth; they are too cheap, as individually packaged cigarillos and chewing tobacco can cost less than a dollar; and they are too easy to buy.Â
The message was vocalized in the group's marching chant, "Tobacco tricks must be beat; tobacco should not be cheap or sweet!" Around 11am, the students started their march to the Massachusetts State House. A student from South Hadley High School described the scene, saying, "[We were] standing outside the church all together, red shirts, signs, cheers and chants...... Hey Big Tobacco! Do you hear us! We are the kids and we don't want your nasty stuff!"
At the State House, students met the Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin.Â Dr. Benjamin, who is personally motivated in the fight againstÂ tobacco after losing her father to lung cancer, told the group "every single day, more than 1,200 American die from smoking and each one of those people who die are being replaced by two young smokers." She challenged the group to end "the epidemic of smoking" among youth and adults by fighting against advertisements meant to attract young people and for an increase in the price of tobacco products.
The 84 youth were ready to rise to the challenge! Following the surgeon general's remarks, youth marched to Gardner Auditorium to share their message with legislators at a rally. Earlier in the day, The 84 youth visited legislators' offices to talk about tobacco companies' marketing tricks and the dangers of "other tobacco products" (OTPs) including apple-flavored cigarillos and cherry-flavored chewing tobacco, which are especially appealing to young consumers.Â "We are all here today because tobacco is still a major problem in our communities," said Nathan Diaz, a student from Springfield. Members of The 84 also voiced their support for a proposal from Governor Deval Patrick to raise the taxes on all tobacco products including OTPs so that youth would then be less likely to afford them.
To wrap up the day, Representative Sean Garballey, a former president of an anti-tobacco club at Arlington High School, hosted the awards ceremony to recognize outstand 84 members and Chapters. Massachusetts Department of Public Health Medial Director Lauren Smith presented the following awards:
2012 Statewide Youth Leadership Award:
John Nguyen, Excel High School (Boston)
2012 Regional Youth Leadership Award:
Boston: Liliana Cabrera, Boston Trinity Academy (Boston)
Metrowest: Shauna Newcomb, Weymouth High School (Weymouth)
Southeast: Casey Schnetzer, Middleboro Youth Advocates (Middleboro)
Northeast: Anna Martinez, Girl's Inc. of Lynn (Lynn)
Central: Jessica Ferreira, Milford High School (Milford)
West: Duong Huynh, Springfield REACH (Springfield)
During his speech, The 84 Statewide Leadership Award winner, John Nguyen, said, "Like any other movement in history, a voice is needed. Today, right now, I look at all of us here together, and I know we are going to make a difference."