Utah youth advocate against tobacco companies

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The Utah County Health Department coordinated a Kick Butts Day Party to educate the people of Utah County about how tobacco companies are targeting youth.

The event involved youth from different anti-tobacco youth groups who either performed at the event or presented information at booths.

The Utah County Health Department coordinated a Kick Butts Day Party to educate the youth of Utah County about tobacco products and companies. (Photo by Sara Bitterman)
The Utah County Health Department coordinated a Kick Butts Day Party to educate the youth of Utah County about tobacco products and companies. (Photo by Sara Bitterman)

OUTRAGE, one of the youth groups, had a booth with educational information as well as a booth where people could pledge to stay tobacco free by signing a piece of paper. The pieces of paper will be used to make a chain of support for their cause. The group’s goal is to have 35,000 signatures this year.

Sarah Simons, a health educator and coordinator for OUTRAGE, said their goal is to help change the world one pledge at a time.

“We just want to take this opportunity to educate the people of Utah County on what’s out there and show them how the big tobacco companies are targeting youth across the board,” Simons said.

Cody Pace, a 14-year-old OUTRAGE member from Willow Creek Middle School, worked at a candy booth meant to show how new tobacco products are becoming similar to candy through flavor or appearance. One of the products was dissolvable tobacco strips.

“Right now there’s no regulation on where they can put them (tobacco strips), and they look a lot like candy,” Pace said.

Pace said these kinds of products can cause the same kind of damage as cigarrettes. He said programs like Kick Butts Day are good because they educate kids about how they are being targeted by tobacco companies and give them the knowledge to fight against these companies rather than give in.

Andrea Wilson, an 18-year-old OUTRAGE member from Merit Academy, said she got involved in OUTRAGE because of her friends.

“I know that tobacco can take away your life and you should live life to the fullest,” Wilson said. “You shouldn’t have to do those things to make your life better.”

She said one way she encourages herself to not use tobacco products is to look at what it does to people later in life and compare that to how she wants her future to be instead. She hopes the OUTRAGE chain can encourage people to stay tobacco free.

One of the other groups that performed at the event was Island Teens Against Tobacco.

Joyce Ah You, advisor for the Island Teens Against Tobacco, said their youth have been able to work with a lot of other ethnically based youth groups to create awareness across the state. She also said the great thing about these youth is they really want to end tobacco use.

“We’re all together in this fight against tobacco,” Ah You said.

George Ngatuvai, president of the Provo High School chapter for Island Teens Against Tobacco, said it is important to make people aware of the consequences of tobacco on youth. He said one of the ways to create awareness is through culture, which is what the group does through performing traditional dances.

Ngatuvai also said tobacco use among Pacific Islanders is a big issue and one way to deal with the problem is to not even start using these products in the first place.

“Just stay away from it,” Ngatuvai said. “It’s a trap; don’t get caught in it.”

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