Carson, Douglas students remind people what’s at stake with tobacco |

Carson, Douglas students remind people what’s at stake with tobacco

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Carson High School student Derek Wood, 15, places a sign on the lawn at Mills Park during the Kick Butts campaign Wednesday. The sign reads "That's 1,200 a day," referring to the number of people who die from smoking-related illnesses.

The beeping timer kept Derek Wood working at a moderate pace on Wednesday, the high-pitched series of sounds alerting the Carson High School student it was time to pound in one more sign at Mills Park.

“I’m staking up a sign every 72 seconds,” he explained, standing among a field of fluttery white placards along Highway 50. “We’re showing that every 72 seconds, someone dies from a smoking-related disease … someone just died.”

Forming an area the size of a small cemetery in the grass along the highway, the signs were spaced apart like headstones in a graveyard. they read: “In the U.S., one person dies every 72 seconds from smoking-related diseases. That’s 1,200 people a day.”

“Today is National Kick Butts Day,” said Wood. “It’s basically a day to just stop smoking. If people want to smoke it’s up to them, but I don’t think they should. Smoking is bad for you, and it’s bad for everyone around you. This might make them think that they could become part of a statistic.”

Carson High School students were just one group of students in Carson City participating in national Kick Butts Day, which is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, among others.

Students from Pau-Wa-Lu and Carson Valley middle schools and Douglas High School set up a silent memorial and informational booth in the lobby of the Legislature.

“We put up a table that showed the senators and the legislators the effects smoking has, for example, the chemicals in cigarettes and what happens to your lungs if you smoke,” said Carson Valley Middle School seventh-grader Emily Bolanos.

She and other members from Teens Against Tobacco Usage, or TATU, wore shirts that read, “Turn the tide. Drown out big tobacco” during this visit to the Legislature.

“I’ve known a couple of people who have smoked,” Emily said. “If we can show legislators what happens to people’s lungs, maybe they can do something to stop it.”

Kick Butts Day began in 1995 as a way to fight tobacco companies, which spend more than $100 million each year in Nevada marketing their products, according to

In Nevada, more than 6,500 youth become daily smokers each year, making up some of the 19.6 percent of high school students who smoke.

“One person dying every 72 seconds is just in the United States,” said Carson High School health teacher Misty Harris. “Worldwide, it’s one person every eight seconds.”

That could keep Wood fairly busy with his mallet.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.

By the numbers

• More than 3,000 people die each year in Nevada from smoking.

• The state pays $520 million every year for tobacco-related health-care costs.

• More than 420,000 people die each year in the U.S. from tobacco. Health-care related costs are $89 billion annually.

• The percentage of high school smokers in Nevada, 19 percent, is lower than the nationwide average, 22 percent.

• The nationwide average of high school smokers was near 37 percent in 1997.

• For information on Kick Butts Day, which occurs every April, see online.