Last school year was a real eye-opener. I saw my classmates play at "smoking", talk about the cool new candy cigarettes, and even show me how smoking was a game you could download on your iPad. I knew I needed to make a bigger impact - and I needed to reach kids my age - now! I wanted to tell the story of how kids are being targeted by tobacco companies to be the next generation of smokers. I also thought it was important to address the latest tactics, like e-cigarettes and downloadable apps, that are positioning tobacco as "fun" and "cool".
I decided my next step towards getting the word out about the dangers of tobacco use would be to write a book. In July, my book, "Cool K.A.T.S. Don't Smoke" was published. And within a week, I was traveling across the country reading my book to 4th and 5th grade kids who were involved in the D.A.R.E. (Drug Alcohol Resistance Education) Program. This partnership has allowed me to reach so many kids my age, and share the story of "Tony and Lucy" and how smoking isn't cool - at all.
By the end of this year, I will have shared my book with more than 2000 kids. But I couldn't help wonder, "What about the kids who aren't in the D.A.R.E. Program?" There are many "at risk" kids in low-income areas who are 6X's more likely to turn to tobacco use because they are specifically targeted by tobacco companies. Together with my family, we are reaching out to these schools, doctors offices, social services, and children's homes to offer free copies of the book so the message can reach everyone. Sales of the book help support this effort, so we can all be a part of helping partner up to spread the news!
I want to finish by saying that creating this book wouldn't have been possible without the support of my parents, grandparents and the incredible illustration talents of Steven Wells, who brought the characters to life and helped tell the story of "Cool KAT Kitty". A huge thank you to Officer Novack, Officer Mendoza, and Srgt. Russel and all the officers and teachers who believe in, and continue to help create smoke-free future generations.
With the introduction of e-Cigarettes, tobacco companies have tripled their marketing investment to get kids and teens hooked on smoking. A recent article in TIME Magazine states, "What can be said, with great certainty, is that we don’t know nearly enough about the long-term health effects of e-cigs to let young people get hooked on them. And as a parent, this is precisely why the study in Pediatrics and other analyses that have shown e-cigarette companies are spending tens of millions of advertising dollars targeting our kids are so alarming."
Since these new cigarettes aren't regulated, tobacco companies have found the opportunity to surge back into a marketplace that had become increasingly strict in regulating and controlling product exposure to kids. Without regulations, it's become open season, and tobacco companies show no signs of slowing down their attempts to get teens to start smoking.
A study published today in Pediatrics suggests that e-cigarette makers are aiming their products at young people, ages 12 to 24, by increasing advertising during the shows (such as those above) and on the channels (including AMC, Country Music Television, Comedy Central and TV Land) they watch most.
You may have heard about a new type of cigarette on the market - the Electronic or e-cigarette. This device is said to help smokers quit smoking and reduce the nicotine addiction. Evidence is now showing that not only is the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarette potentially lethal, but now tobacco companies want to make sure these tobacco devices aren't regulated the way cigarettes are.
Without the government regulating e-cigarettes, people buying the product do not have to pay high taxes like they do with regular cigarettes. They also are not limited by the age when buying it.
What does this mean for kids? Tobacco companies have found another way to encourage kids to smoke. Now it's a new "technology" that will costs less than an iPhone and you don't have to be over 18 to buy one. Tobacco use in American kids between the ages of 11 and 16 has gone down by more than 40% since 2010 because of three things:
With a tobacco companies coming up with a new way to entice kids to become smokers, it's more important than ever to get the word out about the dangers of smoking. Let's help create the next smoke-free generation!
By the way, here's some interesting research they've done on e-cigarettes:
"Liquid nicotine is extracted from tobacco, but unlike tobacco leaves, liquid nicotine can be lethal. It can cause harm when it's inhaled, but it can also be harmful when ingested or absorbed through your skin. Only a small dose is dangerous -- less than one tablespoon of many of the e-liquids on the market is enough to kill an adult, and as little as a teaspoon could kill a child) [source: Richtel]. The number of calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette nicotine-infused liquids rose sharply every month between September 2010 and February 2014, from just one call per month to as many as 215 -- that's a rise from 0.3 percent to 41.7 percent of all emergency calls. As many as 51.1 percent of those calls involved accidental poisoning of kids under the age of 5 (roughly 42 percent involved adults age 20 or older) [source: CDC].
Some testing suggests it's not only the nicotine that may be dangerous. Certain e-cigarette devices may also release metals during use -- including tin in some cases -- as well as other impurities known to be toxic and/or carcinogenic." SOURCE: "How Stuff Works Article - 10 Little Known Facts About e-Cigarettes"
Sometimes, I'm asked, "What would you say to someone who smokes?" I think they ask me that because I'm always sharing the message about K.A.T.S. and think I'm "anti-smoker". The truth is, there are lots of resources to help people quit smoking, but what we're committed to is helping to educate kids so that they never pick up that first cigarette.
A lot of smokers feel persecuted and bullied about smoking. That's not what we're here to do. Almost every person I've spoken to - smoker or not - agrees that they would never encourage someone to start smoking. We support that idea. We want to help inform kids about the dangers, costs, and lies associated with smoking so they never want to start.
Thanks to everyone for your help in getting the word out!
The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to make a plan to quit or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting even for one day smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life! Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help.
To learn about available tools, call American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345
Each day 3,000 children smoke their first cigarette. Make the promise today never to be one of them. Together we can help make sure that fewer teenagers pick up their first cigarette and even more put down their last. Watch the video below to learn more about how smoking affects kids and then add your comment to this posting.
Every kid counts and your voice matters!
Through her website, video-blogs and social media, Hannah blends her engaging humor, science, and statistics to educate fellow Cool K.A.T.S. on the “why” and “how” of staying tobacco-free.