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4-Hers advocated for youth to have a smoke-free life
4-H Kick Butts
Liberty County 4-Hers advocate for a tobacco-free lifestyle Wednesday, during the annual 'Kick Butts Day.' - photo by Asha Gilbert

Georgia youth united against tobacco use Wednesday, joining young people across the nation for Kick Butts Day, an annual day of youth activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

This year, kids are focused on kicking Juul, the e-cigarette that has become popular among youth across the country.

In Hinesville, Liberty County 4-H hosted their annual Kick Butts Day at the Historic Liberty County Courthouse. 4-Hers learned about the damaging effects of tobacco use and pledged to live a tobacco-free lifestyle.

While cigarette smoking among high school students nationwide has fallen to 8.1 percent, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by an alarming 78 percent in 2018 alone – to 20.8 percent of the student population, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. U.S. public health leaders have called youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic” that is addicting a new generation of kids.

In Georgia, 8.6 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, while 12.8 percent smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 11,700 lives in Georgia and costs the state $3.2 billion in health care bills each year.

On Kick Butts Day, youth and health advocates called for strong action to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic. In particular, they requested that the Food and Drug Administration, states and cities ban all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes in flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear and mango that tempt kids. Other effective strategies to reduce youth tobacco use include laws raising the tobacco sale age to 21, significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws and well-funded tobacco prevention programs.

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