Harkin Praises Iowa Students for Promoting Smoke-Free Lifestyles on Kick Butts Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today praised students in Knoxville, Decorah and Marion for holding Kick Butts Day events and taking leadership in the fight against tobacco use. Kick Butts Day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“I am proud that Iowa youths are making such a strong statement against tobacco companies and their marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products,” Harkin said. “By getting out the word about the dangers of tobacco use, these young Iowans are exposing the lies of the Big Tobacco companies and helping to save lives by promoting a smoke free lifestyle.”

In Iowa, 20 percent of high school students smoke, and 5,500 kids become regular smokers every year. Every year, tobacco use kills 4,400 residents and costs the state $937 million in health care bills. Nationally, about 22 percent of high school students smoke, and tobacco costs the nation more than $89 billion in health care bills a year.

Despite efforts during the 1990’s to curtail the manipulative marketing geared at children, the tobacco industry currently spends more that $11 billion a year – or over $30 million per day to promote its products. Much of that money is spent in ways designed to tempt children to start smoking, before they are mature enough to appreciate the enormity of the health risk. More than 90% of smokers begin as children and are addicted by the time they reach adulthood.

Harkin is a leader in Congress, fighting for tobacco control and promoting prevention issues.  He introduced the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act to reform our health care system to focus on prevention and healthier lifestyles. It would require tobacco companies to reduce teen smoking rates or instead face a stiff financial penalty.