Kicking the habit before it starts

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National Kick Butts Day is an annual opportunity for youth to spread the word about kicking the smoking habit, and Lakewood High School was in on this year’s action.

On March 20, a piece of art created by Hannah Bendiksen, a National Art Honor Society student at the school, was on display, and members of the school’s Breathe Easy team and Jefferson County Public Health’s tobacco-prevention initiative spoke to students about making their voices heard.

“It’s a national day of activism and a way to raise awareness, and we want students to start to take strong actions,” said Nicole Swaggerty, youth engagement specialist for the tobacco-prevention initiative. “These days the youth all have a personal story about tobacco use or have been touched by it in some way.”

The volunteers collected statements from students who had something to say about tobacco companies targeting youth, and encouraged them to express their opinions to policy makers.

“What’s most important about this is getting the students to engage,” said Donna Vivarette, health-education-program supervisor with Jeffco Health. “We’re starting to see student get interested in policy change and the civic process.”

Lakewood’s Breathe Easy team has been working toward decreasing smoking in the community for about five years, and was very vocal in 2012 when Lakewood was reworking its smoking ordinances.

According to Kim Morrow, a counselor at the high school, the team goes to health fairs and other events to encourage youth about the dangers of smoking.

The school also has a smoking-cessation group for students who want to quit.

“Many students feel very strongly about the way youth are targeted,” Morrow said.

Swaggerty said it’s shocking how young people are starting to smoke, and that’s why days like Kick Butts Day are so important.

“There’s a lot of great stuff happening, here and nationally,” she said. “It’s so essential we get the information to this population.”

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