Students rally at the Capitol

posted by: Laurann Robinson

lrobinson@klkntv.com

Kids from all over the state gathered at the Capitol for national Kick Butts day. The group, No Limits Nebraska, put on the effort to stop tobacco advertising to youth. Today’s 5th annual event kicked off with a meeting between students and their state senators. Then, the group marched through the streets of downtown Lincoln chanting anti–tobacco cheers, leading all the way up to the steps of the Capitol.

Brooklyn Larimore, a freshman from Bellevue West High School, says this cause is more that just a school function for her. “The majority of my family used to be smokers, and we’ve been doing this, and we got all but two of them to quit, so it was a great accomplishment for us,” she said.

According to the Surgeon General, in the U.S., 600,000 middle schoolers and 3 million high schoolers currently smoke cigarettes. And 1,200 people die every day due to tobacco use… For each of those deaths, 2 youth begin lighting up, they’re referred to as “replacement smokers.”

Joanna Hejl, a junior at Lincoln High School, says the term “replacement” smoker is not one she would like to see used for her generation. “Big tobacco said that they actually view us as replacement smokers. And that really hits me because i think that we’re not just replacements. We are beautiful, we are advocates, we are leaders, we are strong, we are the next generation of change–makers in the world,” Hejl said.

And the goal this group of “change–makers” has for today is to simply be heard.

No Limits Nebraska project coordinator, Molly Kincaid says “The goal today is to just get the youth to get their voices heard about how they want to change the impact that tobacco has on them in nebraska.”

And on the topic of e–cigarettes… A study done by the CDC says numbers of youth trying this newer form continues to grow. About 12% of high schoolers have tried it. The jury is still out on whether it’s a safe alternative.