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Tobacco use prevention activities shared with N-N K-kids

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NORFOLK - Earlier this month the fourth-grade K-Kids service organization from Norwood-Norfolk Central School took part in a tobacco use prevention activity.

Led by K-Kids advisors Lee Mittelstaedt and Carrie French, with help from Ben Todd, St. Lawrence County Tobacco Program coordinator, the activity included a brief presentation, scavenger hunt, and writing assignment. The group learned about the tactics the tobacco industry uses to lure young people into experimenting with tobacco products.

“Companies put candy flavors in tobacco to trick little kids and teens to smoke and chew it,” wrote Taegan LaBrake.

This point is supported by the following quote taken from tobacco industry files: “It is a well know fact that teenagers like sweet products.”

So why would tobacco companies add candy flavors to their products? Adding flavors like orange, grape, and cherry doesn’t make tobacco products safer. It only makes them more appealing to youth. In March 2008, a poll found that one in five youth between the ages of 12 and 17 had seen flavored tobacco products or ads in stores, while only one in ten adults reported having seen them. These products are widely considered to be starter products, establishing smoking habits that can lead to a lifetime of addiction.

The K-Kids also learned about the chemicals that can be found in cigarettes. “I don’t think anyone should smoke or buy tobacco products,” wrote Emma Wells. “I didn’t know cigarettes have so many chemicals.”

The students learned that cigarettes have thousands of chemicals in them, some of which are deadly. When asked what she learned, Hillary Filios wrote, “Cyanide is in rat poison and in cigarettes.”

The focus of this event was to help these fourth-grade students understand the importance of resisting the temptation to experiment with tobacco products. A 2007 study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that some youths experience tobacco dependence within a day of first inhaling. Evidence also shows that smoking can be a first step toward other substance abuse. Stopping or delaying that first step will reduce the risk that kids will progress to using other harmful substances.

This activity was scheduled in conjunction with Kick Butts Day, March 20. Kick Butts Day, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is a national day of activism that empowers youth. There will be more than 1,000 events in schools and communities across the United States and around the world. In St. Lawrence County there will be events in Potsdam, Lisbon, Canton, Heuvelton, and Clifton-Fine.

K-Kids, sponsored by Kiwanis International, is a student-led community service club for elementary students that teaches members the value of helping others through participation in community service projects and club activities.

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