Students send kick butt message |

Students send kick butt message

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City and Douglas County students united Wednesday to send a “kick butt” message to community members and lawmakers.

“God wants nobody to smoke,” said kindergartner Justin Whitehead. “It can make kids sick if they’re too close.”

Students across Nevada organized various activities as part of the nation’s eighth annual Kicks Butts Day.

Members of Carson High School’s TATU club, which stands for Teens Against Tobacco Use, joined with Fremont Elementary School students to pick up cigarette butts from Mills Park.

They plan to package the butts and send them to lawmakers in hopes of passing legislation to increase cigarette taxes and prohibit smoking in more public areas such as restaurants.

“It’s bad for people, trees, animals, plants and our whole environment,” said 7-year-old Dartanyan Perry.

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Douglas County students took a different approach. They arrived at the Legislature as a mock funeral procession following a hearse.

A coffin served as a grim symbol to lawmakers of the 25.2 percent of the state’s high school students who already smoke. Nevada taxpayers spend about $440 million each year on smoking-related health care costs.

The display was organized through Melinda Matus, who lost both parents in 1998 to cancers stemming from tobacco use.

Now she heads Douglas County’s Tobacco Advisory Team to deter youth from experimenting with cigarettes and dangers associated with them.

“We need to protect our youth against second-hand smoke and big tobacco advertising,” she said. “The youths are key to making a difference and changing social norms.”

Josh Herrera, 16, had similar reasons for joining TATU, a club dedicated to educating young children of the hazards of tobacco use.

“In my family, a lot of people have died from smoking,” he said. “Nobody else needs to die from it.”