As part of national Kick Butts Day, the American Lung Association in Ohio and youth from throughout the state gathered March 20 to educate their legislators on the high rates of youth tobacco use and the importance of tobacco prevention funding.
"Few prevention programs exist in our area because of budget cuts. However, the tobacco industry has not stopped marketing their products to youth in Dayton or Ohio," said Aditya Phadke from the Asian American Youth Council of Dayton. "Without funding, youth smoking rates in our state are unlikely to improve."
The event highlighted the growing concern over the use of many different types of tobacco.
The most recent Ohio tobacco use rates from the 2010 Ohio Youth Tobacco Survey highlight this issue:
Cigarettes - Middle school, 4.5 percent; and high school, 16.7 percent
Spit - Middle school, 3.5 percent; and high school, 8.8 percent
Hookah - Middle school, 3.6 percent; and high school, 19.47 percent
Cigars - Middle school, 3.9 percent; and high school, 12.3 percent
Snus - Middle school, 3.6 percent; and high school, 7 percent
"Ohio high school students have high rates of cigar use and smoke hookah at higher rates than cigarettes," said Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "Middle schools students use spit tobacco, hookah, cigars, snus and cigarettes at close to the same rate. Our youth are multiple product users and this problem requires a comprehensive solution.
"These products come in candy flavors and bright, kid-friendly packaging and are cheap because the tax is so low," Kiser said. "Lawmakers should close the loophole that allows these products to be taxed at less than half the tax of cigarettes to reduce youth users of these products and fund tobacco prevention programs."
The youth participants marched around the statehouse dressed as zombies, carrying signs urging youth to "Don't be a zombie to tobacco," because when you're addicted to tobacco you become a mindless slave to tobacco and the tobacco industry.
Tobacco use claims 18,500 lives and costs the state $4.37 billion in health-care costs each year. Without funding for tobacco prevention and cessation in the budget, Ohio taxpayers will continue to pay the bill for increasing tobacco-related costs.