DANVILLE — On March 27, parents and kids can join in on the 18th annual Kick Butts for Kids Day, which promotes smoking awareness and healthy children.
“It’s an opportunity for children to advocate their parents to quit smoking and speak out against tobacco companies,” said Dr. Michele Neff-Bulger, of Geisinger’s pediatrics department.
Kick Butts for Kids day was instituted by the Campaign for Cancer-Free Kids.
Children are still the primary target of cigarette ads, said Neff-Bulger. Over 90 percent of smokers start before they reach age 18, she said. “Once you’re an adult, you’re pretty unlikely to start a habit like that… Adolescents are still so easily influenced, tobacco companies home in on that and take advantage of it.”
Tobacco use, especially smoking, is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Eliminating tobacco use would save thousands of dollars in healthcare as well as lower yearly death rates by 400,000, said Neff-Bulger.
Second-hand smoke can also cause a host of problems for children, such as heart disease, cancer and asthma. Fifty percent of children in America are exposed to second-hand smoke, the majority from their parents. “Second-hand smoke kills people too,” said Neff-Bulger. “Children who live with smokers, their arteries are more clogged than children who live in smoke-free homes.”
One of the most important things a smoking parent can do for their children is quit. “They’re motivated to quit for their children. No parent wants their children to grow up and be a smoker,” said Neff-Bulger.
For those who find it difficult to quit, a good first step is keeping smoke out of the house by only smoking outside.
It can be very hard for a person to quit on their own, said Neff-Bulger, as nicotine is about as addictive as heroin. “Don’t get frustrated, it takes the averages person seven to 10 attempts to quit,” she said.
Geisinger can help refer someone to the right resources needed to help them. Most people will need nicotine replacement therapy as their body has become physically addicted to the substance, she said.