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Anti-Smoking Program: Breathe ND

The anti-smoking website, Tobacco Free Kids has some disturbing statistics about smoking in North Dakota ( 2012 data):

High school students who smoke: 19.4% (7,400)
Male high school students who use smokeless or spit tobacco: 22.2%
Kids (under 18) who become new daily smokers each year: 600
Kids exposed to secondhand smoke at home: 42,000
Packs of cigarettes bought or smoked by kids each year: 1.9 million
Adults in North Dakota who smoke: 21.9%

Breathe ND is one response by our state government to the terrible toll tobacco use takes on our citizens. An estimated $247 million is paid by North Dakota taxpayers pay each year for tobacco-related diseases.

At least part of this is caused because of how tobacco is marketed to kids. Our youngsters are, after all, the next load of customers to target. In a slide show presentation called, “How Big Tobacco Targets Kids Today,” parents are warned about flavored smokeless tobacco products and sweetened “mini-cigars” designed to appeal to younger smokers. One only has to see all the signs prominently displayed in convenience stores to see how pervasive tobacco advertising is. What is the point in splashing cigarette brand images all over, at a cost of billions per year to tobacco companies, if there isn’t a pay-off in new smokers? Those already addicted don’t switch brands often, they ask for whichever product they are loyal too. The ads are primarily to keep popular brand names in front of those who haven’t yet committed to a life-long addiction.

New forms of “kid friendly” products are also a concern. Some look like tic-tacs, others like breath freshener strips and still others make a convenient little “pillow,” full of powdered tobacco to slip between the teeth and gums, giving the secrecy of smokeless tobacco without all the messy spitting.

To fight back, anti-smoking campaigns are ongoing and reaching out to students in their teens and even younger. Last month saw a series of “Kick Butt” events designed to bring attention to the issue of smoking in North Dakota.

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