County youth aim to ‘Kick Butts’ through kickball; highlight smoking dangers

ST. GEORGE — Raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine use was the focus of the Washington County Youth Coalition as the group launched its 2nd annual kickball tournament on national “Kick Butts Day” Wednesday.

Local youth enjoyed the 2nd Annual Kick Butts event at the Little Valley Athletic Fields in St. George, Utah, Mar. 16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman
Local youth enjoyed the 2nd Annual Kick Butts event at the Little Valley Athletic Fields in St. George, Utah, Mar. 16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Members of a local group, Island Teens Against Tobacco, were also in attendance at the event.

“’Kick Butts Day’ is a national day for youth to stand up against Big Tobacco,” Kaysha Price, adviser to the Washington County Youth Coalition, said. “Youth are encouraged to do some type of an activity in their area. The aim is to try to get teens to this event so they can receive education on the dangers of tobacco and nicotine.”

Jacob Horton, a junior at Snow Canyon High School, said helping out with “Kick Butts Day” was important to him because several family members’ lives have been negatively impacted by addictions.

“Here at the event we kind of want to just bring a little bit of fun into drug prevention and that’s kind of why I’m here,” said Horton, adding his personal experiences made him want to be a part of the awareness activity. “Where it really starts is your teenage years, that’s the important years, if you get hooked onto it now, you’re going to be hooked onto it for the rest of your life and its’ really hard to kick.

Brooklyn Kauvaka, a senior at Pine View High School and a member of Island Teens Against Tobacco, said she was there because she believes tobacco companies specifically target Polynesian teenagers.

“As an island teen, I think that’s kind of offensive,” she said, adding Kick Butts Day is “a cool way to make kids my age or island teens aware of how targeted we are as Polynesians or just teens in general.

The event featured informational booths and activities illustrating the dangers of tobacco use. A kickball tournament was the featured event with a dozen 10-person teams participating in addition to the approximately 50 members of the Washington County Youth Coalition.

Logan Reid, director of prevention and education at the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, said advisors from his organization and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department oversee the Washington County Youth Coalition in the “Kick Butts” endeavor.

“Our two departments teamed up to provide advisers for this youth coalition,” he said. “They help the youth stay organized, pick strategies, do their research and facilitate and advise activities like this one.”

Youth and adults alike often aren’t fully aware of the dangers posed by tobacco and nicotine, Reid said.

“Groups like this, like the Washington County Youth Coalition, have a unique ability of getting access to the community,” he said, “and helping to educate them about the real harms of substance abuse.”

Vincent Irving, youth activism manager for Truth Initiative, the largest nonprofit public health organization in the nation devoted specifically to tobacco control, was on hand for the event. The goal of Truth Initiative is to create the first tobacco-free generation, Irving said, adding:

This afternoon I’m here to support the students from Washington County. They attended our national summit on youth activism this past summer in Orlando, Florida, and they had a local project they had to accomplish from attending that summit. This kickball event is their project. They’ve invited youth from around the community to come out and have some fun and learn at the same time. We’re just here to support them in doing that.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Each day, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette
  • Each day, an estimated 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily smokers
  • Worldwide, tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030
  • Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure; this is about 1 in 5 deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day
  • On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness; this represents about 1 in every 13 Americans aged 17 or younger who are alive today

Resources

  • Washington County Youth Coalition Facebook Page
  • Tobacco Free Kids website
  • 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General
  • World Health Organization report (2011) on the global tobacco epidemic
  • Truth Initiative website

Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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