During the month of March, Well-Ahead Louisiana, an initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health; the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living; and The Rapides Foundation partnered to celebrate Kick Butts Day in different locations throughout Louisiana.
Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Nationally it’s celebrated on March 15, however schools and communities across America participate in interactive activities and events throughout the month. The events offer education and empower youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco – and commit to stay tobacco-free.
In Louisiana, 13.2 percent of middle school students and 27.6 percent of high school students use tobacco. Kick Butts Day allows Louisiana’s youth to be part of the solution to continue to reduce smoking.
“By combining efforts with the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living and The Rapides Foundation, we can truly move the needle on tobacco-use prevalence and tobacco-related death and disease rates,” said Melissa R. Martin, Director of the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Louisiana Department of Health. “We’re already seeing a decrease in the number of Louisiana adults who smoke, and working to educate students at such a young age gives us the opportunity to stop smoking before it starts.”
“Reaching our youth during middle and high school is crucial because the average smoker tries their first cigarette before the age of 18,” said Tonia Moore, Director for Tobacco-Free Living. “We are so very proud of our youth movement that is working statewide to take down the influence of the tobacco industry, promote tobacco-free lifestyles, and bring awareness to our communities.”
With the help of the East Baton Rouge Student Alliance Council, Well-Ahead Louisiana organized eight Kick Butts Day events at local high schools: Broadmoor High, McKinley High, Woodlawn High, Northdale High, Glen Oaks High, Scotlandville High, Lee High, and Belaire High. The Student Alliance Council developed two interactive Kick Butts activities – Smoker’s Obstacle Course and Body Bag for a Cigarette. Each school had the opportunity to choose the activity that they felt would impact students the most.
Partner organizations and youth across the state remain engaged in Defy, an initiative of Tobacco-Free Living. Defy is a Louisiana youth-driven advocacy movement that seeks to reduce the influence of the tobacco industry and promote tobacco-free lifestyles. Defy teams have worked throughout the month to host more than 15 events state-wide, including #iKickButts murals, hanging out the tobacco industry’s “dirty laundry,” social media photo challenges to create awareness, engaging local officials and other youth about the effects tobacco can have, drop dead demonstrations, letters to the editor, school rallies and more.
In Central Louisiana, students from 49 schools in seven school districts are participating in activities through funding by a Healthy Behaviors School District Partnership Grant from The Rapides Foundation.
The Rapides Foundation encourages support of Kick Butts Day activities because of their proven effectiveness. “Educating students about the dangers of tobacco is an important part of our Healthy Behaviors Initiative,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “We know that in order to impact health behaviors within our region, it’s important to focus on young people.”
Louisiana students want Big Tobacco to know that on Kick Butts Day, and every day throughout the year, they will fight to stay tobacco-free! “I wanted to participate in Kick Butts Day because I feel like we need to inform all of our peers about the dangers of tobacco and drug addiction – what it can do, how it can change all of your decisions and close opportunities in your life,” said a junior at Broadmoor High.
Louisiana residents who want to quit smoking can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.quitwithusla.org. Residents who started smoking before September 1, 1988 may be eligible for a completely free quit program through the Smoking Cessation Trust. Call (504) 529-5665 or (855) 259-6346 to find out more.
About Well-Ahead Louisiana:
Well-Ahead Louisiana is an initiative started by the Louisiana Department of Health aimed at improving the health and wellness of Louisiana residents. Well-Ahead Louisiana promotes and recognizes smart choices in the spaces and places we live and work every day that make it easier for us all to live healthier lives, from going tobacco-free to ensuring healthy lunch options or supporting workplace fitness programs. To learn more visit www.wellaheadla.com or follow us on Facebook @Well-Ahead Louisiana or on LinkedIn @Well-Ahead Louisiana.
The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living
The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living and the Office of Public Health, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Well-Ahead initiative coordinate their efforts in tobacco prevention and control by providing statewide coordination of existing tobacco control initiatives, funding innovative community programs for tobacco control, offering services for people who are ready to quit and developing statewide media campaigns to help reduce the excessive burden of tobacco use on the state’s resources and improve the overall health and quality of life in Louisiana. For more information visit www.tobaccofreeliving.org. To find out more about the dangers of secondhand smoke and show your support for a 100-percent smoke-free Louisiana, visit www.healthierairforall.org. To learn more about quitting tobacco, visit www.quitwithusla.org.
About The Rapides Foundation
The Rapides Foundation is a philanthropic organization that develops initiatives and provides grants to organizations that share the Foundation’s mission to improve the health status of Central Louisiana. The Foundation’s service area consists of Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes.