Contact: Thomas Hottman
Yellow teeth, toe-less feet and facial scarring were just some of the graphic images projected onto the screen during an anti-smoking assembly at Mazama High School Tuesday, which addressed the impact of the tobacco industry on the nation’s youth in accordance with Wednesday’s nationwide Kick Butts Day initiative.
This week, Sky Lakes Medical Center, Klamath Tribal Health and Klamath County Public Health joined the 21st annual national movement in an effort to raise awareness locally and educate the community about the detrimental impact of tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vapes and e-cigarettes, Sky Lakes Freedom From Smoking Program Coordinator Valerie Franklin said.
By hosting a series of assembly presentations at Lost River High School, Chiloquin High School and Klamath Union High School, as well as Mazama, the team intends to educate students about the campaign launched by “Big Tobacco” to capture future smokers by advertising directly to youth.
“The emphasis of [today] is to bring awareness to the youth in the community of the intent of Big Tobacco to target youth for the use of their products,” she said. “We want to bring awareness of that so they can fight against being a replacement for smokers and nicotine users dying from preventable disease.”
Big Tobacco refers to the “big five” largest global tobacco companies: Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco International and China Tobacco.
Preventable death, disease
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, resulting in nearly 480,000 deaths each year, Franklin said. Over 3,000 youth between the age of 14 and 18 try tobacco daily and 700 become addicted.
In Klamath County, Franklin said tobacco use is at “epidemic proportions” with half of all high school students regularly using some form of tobacco.
Sky Lakes, Klamath Tribal Health and Klamath County Public Health enlisted the help of the leadership class at Mazama to create fliers and put facts about the negative impacts of tobacco products around the school in preparation for Tuesday’s assembly, which started with a pop quiz, including, “How much money is spent on advertising, annually?” and “How many people are addicted to tobacco products?”
Standing in the center of the gym on Tuesday, Assistant Football Coach Beau Fullerton told the students about his 20-year addiction to chewing tobacco and his numerous failed attempts at kicking a bad habit. Between the age of 13 and 33, he said he spent $5 a day on chewing tobacco, which has five times more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes.
“Each day since then has been a struggle, but never quit quitting,” he said. “There is nothing beneficial about smoking and if you chew, you’re 100 percent going to get cancer.”
More than dangerous
KFLS Radio News Director Paul Hanson also touched on his past life, which he said he spent smoking two to three packs of cigarettes a day.
“It’s not just dangerous, it’s ridiculously addictive,” he said. “Don’t pick up the bad habit, you’ll die from it.”
Toward the end of the presentation Franklin and Calysta McCool from Klamath County Public Health presented a series of statistics about the cost of tobacco, the health implications and local techniques used to target youth.
Every year, the tobacco industry spends $9 billion on advertising to target youth, something Franklin said she likes to put into perspective for students.
“That much money could pay for 317,000 four-year college degrees or 400,000 brand new cars,” she said.
McCool encouraged students to take a pledge to quit smoking or stay tobacco free and “not be a replacement” for big tobacco companies.
“The purpose of today is to empower youth to stand up, speak out and fight against the tobacco movement,” she said.
Want to kick the habit?
Information about local smoking cessation resources is available at:
- Sky Lakes Medical Center: By calling 541-274-7252, or online at http://bit.ly/2lYhJeY.
- Klamath County Public Health: By calling 541-882-8846, or online at http://bit.ly/2mpDu2R.
- Klamath Tribal Health: By calling 541-882-1487, or online at klamathtribalhealth.org/medical