On Wednesday, March 24 and Monday, March 29 all fifth-graders in RSU 20 will head to the Waldo County YMCA to attend a daylong health fair focused on tobacco awareness and healthy lifestyle choices. Students will rotate through seven interactive stations focused on tobacco health effects, the power of addictions, second- and third-hand smoke, smokeless tobacco, marketing to youth and creating positive choices through music and art. The chosen topics were based on the Great Body Shop, a health curriculum utilized by K-5 teachers.

The health fair runs in conjunction with Kick Butts Day, a national campaign for youth to stand up, speak out and seize control against big tobacco companies. On March 24, elementary, middle and high school students across the country are organizing KBD events to fight youth tobacco use. Young people will participate in a variety of KBD activities, such as surveying tobacco advertising in their communities, urging local officials to support anti-tobacco ordinances and tossing caps, hats, jackets and other items carrying tobacco brand names into giant dumpsters. In 2009, thousands of kids carried out nearly 2,000 events.

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 cigarette; another 1,000 kids become addicted smokers, a 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. The campaign strives to build a healthier future for children by reducing tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke.

Recently, reports were released about tobacco use among Maine youth. The numbers are alarming and climbing. The State of Tobacco Control 2009 report shows that between 2007 and 2008, self-reported rates of smoking in Maine adolescents and teens rose from 14 percent to more than 18 percent, which is the first increase since 1997, when the rate was more than 39 percent.

Tobacco Free … A Passport to Health was developed through the collaborative efforts of the elementary guidance counselors, YMCA, Healthy Waldo County, District Tobacco
coordinator, elementary itinerants and school health coordinator.

For more information about the event, KBD at the YMCA, contact Linda Hartkopf, RSU 20 school health coordinator, at 338-1960 or e-mail lhartkopf@rsu20.org or Brandon Hurd at 338-4598 or e-mail teens@waldocountyymca.org .

For information on the national initiative,visit the KBD Web site at kickbuttsday.org.