Each year, youth across the country take part in Kick Butts Day, a nationwide initiative that helps kids become leaders in the effort to stop youth tobacco use. For Kick Butts Day 2013, Mar. 20, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is celebrating the voluntary adoption of strong tobacco-free school policies across the state. The Michigan Tobacco Free Schools Act (PA 140 of 1993) prohibits tobacco use by anyone inside buildings at all times, but tobacco use is permitted outside on district property after 6pm and on weekends.
Across the nation and as part of the Kick Butts Day celebration, students perform cigarette butt cleanups, educate fellow youths on the dangers of tobacco use, and encourage adults to make policy decisions that benefit youth health and safety. In Michigan, 40 percent of high school students have at least tried cigarette smoking. Further, 19.6 percent of Michigan high school students reported smoking cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or little cigars; or using chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip on at least one day. As of Nov. 2012, more than half of Michigan public school districts had adopted comprehensive 24/7 tobacco-free on- and off-campus policies, many of which also specifically prohibit products such as e-cigarettes, snus, or dissolvables.
“Children spend the majority of their time in school or at school sponsored events, so it’s important that we ensure our children are in a healthy environment that promotes positive health role-modeling for Michigan youth,” said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. “We’re encouraged to see so many school districts voluntarily adopting policies that protect our children’s overall health and wellness.”
Progress has been made in reducing tobacco use among youth, but far too many young people are still using tobacco. Across the United States, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Almost 90 percent of new smokers smoke their first cigarette by age 18.
“Youth are vulnerable to social and environmental influences. Messages that make tobacco use appealing to youth are everywhere, but there are many things that our schools and communities can do, such as these policies, to protect the health of our children,” said Haveman.
MDCH and its partners continue to work with schools to develop comprehensive 24/7 tobacco-free policies for on- and off-campus, and to provide education on tobacco use and dependence treatment. For more information on 24/7 tobacco-free school policies, contact the MDCH Tobacco Section at (517) 241-2762. For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website at www.kickbuttsday.org.