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Illinois Kids 'Kick Butts' on March 24

Friday, March 19, 2010 General News J E 4
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Illinois Leaders Urged to Increase Cigarette Tax by $1

WASHINGTON, March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kids in Illinois will take center stage in the fight against tobacco on March 24 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 15th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (for a list of local events see below).

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080918/CFTFKLOGO)

Sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. Kids are sending two powerful messages on Kick Butts Day: They want the tobacco companies to stop targeting them with marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, and they want elected leaders to do more to protect them from tobacco.

In Illinois, health advocates are calling on state leaders to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack in order to prevent kids from smoking and raise much-needed revenue to address the state's budget shortfall and fund critical programs such as health care and education. According to a recent report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a $1 cigarette tax increase in Illinois would have the following benefits:

"On Kick Butts Day, kids are standing up to the tobacco companies, and Illinois leaders should stand with them by increasing the cigarette tax," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "A higher cigarette tax is truly a win-win-win for Illinois: a health win that will prevent kids from smoking and save lives; a budget win that will help protect vital programs like health care and education; and a political win that is popular with the voters."

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. While the nation has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking, 20 percent of high school students still smoke.

In Illinois, tobacco use claims 16,600 lives and costs $4.1 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 19.9 percent of the state's high school students smoke, and 69,300 kids try cigarettes for the first time each year.

On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from "They put WHAT in a cigarette?" demonstrations to mock-funerals for the Marlboro Man to rallies at state capitols. Activities in Illinois include (all events are on March 24 unless otherwise noted):

REALITY, a youth anti-tobacco group sanctioned and supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the American Cancer Society will hold a powerful and illustrative press conference in Rockford on Kick Butts Day to discuss concerns about tobacco use. The group will also exhibit educational displays featured at the Cherryvale Mall on Saturday, March 27. Time: 11 AM. Location: 220 South Madison Street, Rockford. Contact: Larry Didier (815) 677-0284.

REALITY youth at Joliet Central High School will illustrate to peers the danger of tobacco use by placing 51 body outlines throughout the commons to show the number of people that die from tobacco and tobacco related illnesses. Location: 201 East Jefferson Street, Joliet. Contact: Jenny Blair (708) 267-6025.

Girl Scouts from St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Chicago will join together to promote tobacco-free lifestyles to their peers and families by an interactive carnival with games, trivia contests and educational displays. Time: 7 PM. Location: 6424 South Kenneth Avenue, Chicago. Contact: Laura Williamson (773) 706-2456.

Note to the media: For a list of Kick Butts Day events in Illinois, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/events. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

-- Prevent 110,100 kids from becoming smokers; -- Spur 57,100 current adult smokers to quit; -- Save 50,300 residents from premature, smoking-caused deaths; and -- Save $2.4 billion in health care costs.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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