Young people from the Depot Youth Center's SADD chapter recently joined thousands of kids across the country in Kick Butts Day, a nationwide initiative that makes kids leaders in the effort to stop youth tobacco use.

As part of the Kick Butts Day celebration, SADD presented "They Put `What?' In a Cigarette" during lunch at Middlesex Middle School The event consisted of two tables showcasing the ingredients found in cigarette tobacco. Darien Fire Marshal Robert Buch answered questions for the students. At noon, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson read a proclamation designating "Kick Butts Day" in Darien. The presentation included hand outs, pamphlets, posters and educational information.

Throughout the year, young advocates took part in a variety of activities to protect kids from tobacco, including working with elected officials to develop policies that reduce youth tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and educating their peers about tobacco companies' deceptive marketing practices.

"The tobacco companies make smoking look cool in their ads, but that's nothing but a lie," senior Sami Testa said. "There's nothing cool about bad breath, smelly clothes and tobacco-stained teeth."

On March 21, elementary, middle and high school students across the country are organized Kick Butts Day events to fight youth tobacco use. Young people participated in a variety of Kick Butts Day activities such as marching to state capitals and holding rallies; meeting with elected officials; and holding flash mobs in busy community spaces. In 2011, thousands of kids carried out hundreds of events. We expect this number to increase in 2012.

"Kids are a powerful part of the solution to reducing youth tobacco use," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which coordinates Kick Butts Day. "For Kick Butts Day 2012, kids are sending two important messages: they want the tobacco industry to stop targeting them with advertising and they want elected leaders at all levels to do more to protect them from tobacco."

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. Every day, more than 4,000 kids try their first cigarettes; another 1,000 kids become addicted smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.

The Washington, DC-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is one of the largest non-governmental education and advocacy initiatives ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Tobacco-Free Kids strives to build a healthier future for our children by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

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For more information on SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) contact Janice Marzano at depotct@optonline.net. For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website at kickbuttsday.org.