About 100 Northern Nevada students descended on the capital city on Wednesday morning, hoping to kick butts at the Nevada Legislature.
The students brought with them information, education and shoes, which they used to cover the west entrance and sidewalks of the building. Each pair of shoes represented one person who will die because of tobacco on any given day.
"We wanted to create a visual image of what 1,200 actually looks like," said Melinda Matus, Partnership of Community Resources coordinator. "People don't see it as a big deal but if three jumbo jets, fully loaded, crashed every day that would make the front page."
Wednesday was "Kick Butts Day," a national day promoting awareness and support for tobacco prevention programs that is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
"This shows people what the facts should already be telling them," said Kimberly Burke, 17, a junior at Carson High School. "We berate people with facts all day, but the shoes really shows them."
For Matus, working to provide education about the harmful effects of tobacco hits close to home.
"I lost my mom and dad in 1998 because of tobacco. They died six months apart. Then my daughter was caught smoking in school and I started looking for a better way to combat it," Matus said.
In 2000, Matus started a program at Douglas High to educate students about the perils of tobacco use. She now provides the same program for the entire school district.
Students from Douglas High School, Carson High School, Dayton High School, Sparks High School and Rite of Passage, Carson Valley and Pau-Wa-Lu middle schools took part in the events at the Legislature, which included the shoe demonstration, a balloon release and lunch with lawmakers.
Douglas and Carson students were also on the floor of the assembly when lawmakers passed a joint resolution declaring Wednesday "Kick Butts Day" in Nevada.
Douglas High sophomore Michael Magno, 15, sat with Assemblyman James Settlemeyer, R-Gardnerville, while he introduced the legislation.
"I hope this makes lawmakers realize all the people that die every day and they start getting good ideas to help and putting them into action," Magno said.
The students collected the shoes over three weeks by putting out bins at high schools and libraries throughout Northern Nevada. After the event at the Legislature, the shoes will be collected, sorted and donated to local charities.
Also for "Kick Butts Day," members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at the University of Nevada, Reno, visited Sierra Vista Elementary to provide tobacco awareness education to the students.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.
By the numbers
People who die every day in the United States from tobacco products
Amount tobacco use costs Nevada annually in health care bills
Percent of Nevada High School students who smoke
Percent of U.S. adults who can't name any of the chemicals in cigarettes besides tar and nicotine
Amount spent by the tobacco companies every day to market their products
Number of chemicals found in cigarettes
Seconds between deaths related to tobacco worldwide
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