According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, every day about 2,000 people under age 18 try their first cigarette. Smoking is almost always started during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

Amy Winter, director of the Mississippi State Department of Health’s office of tobacco control, said that has to change. She added that the fact is of those 2,000 youth, the ones who continue to use tobacco will ultimately die from it. She said this is a huge contribution to the 480,000 tobacco-related deaths per year in the United States, which could all be prevented.

Some of those youth aren’t waiting for others to fix the problem. They’re working together to take down tobacco themselves.

Take Down Tobacco, a fresh take on Kick Butts Day, is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ signature platform for empowering people to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry.

It’s a daily effort that culminates every spring with the Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action, which will be held this year on April 1. On that day, youth activists, educators, parents, health advocates and concerned citizens come together to organize events that raise awareness of the problem of tobacco use in their community; encourage youth to reject the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing and stay tobacco-free; and urge elected officials to take action to protect kids from tobacco.

From cigarettes and cigars to smokeless tobacco to heat-not-burn cigarettes, the tobacco industry peddles a wide range of addictive and dangerous products that put kids at risk across the globe. Although youth smoking rates are on a downward trend and at an all-time low, skyrocketing youth e-cigarettes rates are reversing that progress. Let’s use our voice to advocate for the first tobacco-free generation.

For information and resources about the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco products, visit www.healthyms.com/tobacco. For help with quitting visit www.quitnow.net/ms or call the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Janet Turman is the director of the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Itawamba and Monroe Counties.

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