This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Today is Kick Butts Day, and students at Carson High School and Western Nevada College are joining together to help raise awareness of tobacco use in our community.
Kick Butts Day, which began in 1996, is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco. Today, Carson City’s event and more than 1,000 others are taking place in schools and communities across the United States and even around the world. Teachers, youth leaders and health advocates organize events to raise awareness of the problem of tobacco use in their state or community; encourage youth to reject the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing and stay tobacco-free; and urge community leaders to take action to protect kids from tobacco.
This afternoon from 3-5 pm, students will do a campus clean-up event at Western Nevada College to draw attention to the amount of trash that is generated by tobacco use. Discarded cigarette butts will be collected and counted. Later this month, a presentation to the WNC administration, staff, faculty, and students will highlight the impact the toxic effects of tobacco waste can have on the environment and fire hazard to the campus, along with costs to maintenance of tobacco clean-up on a campus or business.
Sandy Wartgow is a nurse and the Tobacco Prevention and Control Coordinator for Carson City Health and Human Services. She says that events like today are important to keep tobacco prevention in the forefront. While there have been decades of decreasing cigarette use among young people, we have concern with other tobacco products and usage among young people. The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an alarming trend: nearly 10 per cent of Carson City and Douglas County high schoolers report using tobacco regularly, and 27 per cent use e-cigs or some other electronic smoking device. This electronic usage is a huge concern as these rates take us back to the beginning and we now have a new generation of nicotine addicts.
Kick Butts Day is not the only time Wartgow reaches out to help reduce youth tobacco use in our community. She also gives presentations about tobacco to health classes at the high school. “Some of the students are really surprised to learn that e-cigarettes are not safe and not regulated,” she says, continuing, “The manufacturers can put anything in, and the labels may not reflect the actual ingredients, because of the lack of regulation.” Wartgow cites examples of tests that have been done on levels of nicotine in some of the products. In many cases, the levels of the harmful chemical were far higher than listed on the label.
“The cigarette and e-cigarette manufacturers need you,” Wartgow tells the students, “They need you to be the next generation of nicotine addicts so they can keep selling their product. Don’t give in to that.”
The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at Carson City Health and Human Services also works on smoke-free multi-unit housing, evidence-based cessation, referral to the Nevada Tobacco Quitline. For more information about these and other Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.