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It's "Kick Butts Day" for Arkansas Teens

PHOTO: The most popular (and most widely advertised) tobacco brands are known as "America's Most Wanted" by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Courtesy of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
PHOTO: The most popular (and most widely advertised) tobacco brands are known as "America's Most Wanted" by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Courtesy of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
March 20, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Today marks the 18th annual "Kick Butts Day," an effort to get teens and young adults to quit using tobacco.

Despite smoke-free laws and age limits on tobacco purchases, almost 18 percent of Arkansas high school students say they smoke or chew. That's nearly 29,000 youths, with plenty of new choices on the market to entice others to start.

Danny McGoldrick, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' vice president for research, said some companies have added tobacco to their cigarette paper or wrapper, which qualifies it as a cigar - skirting federal regulation and aiming at the younger crowd.

"We have this plethora of new, flavored, sweet, cheap cigar products that are really cigarettes disguised as cigars - peach, vanilla, or strawberry-flavored little cigars that are 99 cents or less for two of 'em - and are clearly meant to appeal to kids," McGoldrick said.

Today's youths are twice as likely to be cigar smokers as adults, McGoldrick said. The campaign has a report out today about new tobacco products it considers a health threat to younger users, he said, including some creative choices for places where people can't light up.

"There are new smokeless tobacco products that are easy for kids to conceal because you don't have to spit with them," he said. "Some are even dissolvable - look like TicTacs or candy - and all these can serve to introduce kids to the habit."

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates the tobacco industry spends almost $100 million a year in Arkansas to market its products. The brands that advertise the most are the top choices for teens - Camel, Marlboro and Newport for cigarettes, and Copenhagen, Grizzly and Skoal for smokeless.

More information is online at tobaccofreekids.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - AR