By Steve Mosco
A boys’ club in Flushing allowed butt-kicking for one special day.
Children at the Boys’ Club of New York Marion McMahon Abbe Clubhouse got a lesson in avoiding the dangerous habit of smoking during Kick Butts Day last week, when the Asthma Coalition of Queens and the North Shore-LIJ Health System teamed up to educate the youngsters.
The organization marked the national day of education by empowering the children to fight back against tobacco and learn about the dangers of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
To learn about the effects of smoking, the Boys Club children created and performed skits and a rap about the dangers of smoking at the club, at 133-01 41st Road. In addition, they played a game of smoking prevention seek-and-find where the kids found answers about tobacco hazards in a picture.
“While there have been many efforts to minimize the number of people smoking across the country, the effects of smoking are still a serious problem,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives for North Shore-LIJ. “With our continued efforts and those of other groups, we look forward to the day when people are no longer exposed to the negative effects of tobacco.”
Copperman said every day approximately 3,800 children smoke their first cigarette and about 1,000 youngsters start smoking on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in five Americans die each year as a result of smoking either directly or through secondhand smoke, Copperman said.
“Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can potentially cause health problems, such as blood clots,” she said.
The program also aimed to educate the children in a manner that would benefit any smokers in their lives. Claudia Guglielmo, director of the Asthma Coalition of Queens, said secondhand smoke is a trigger for asthma attacks and can exacerbate asthma symptoms in children.
“It is important for parents to keep their children from being exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke,” she said. “Kick Butts Day is not only a time for us to empower our children to be smoke-free, but remind parents to use their influence to keep their children from ever starting to smoke.”
Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, said it is important for organizations to empower children and counteract the tobacco industry, which he said spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in the state to try to entice potential customers.
“We commend the organizations and the children who took part in Kick Butts Day to raise awareness about the very real dangers of tobacco,” he said. “In New York state, big tobacco is spending over $500,000 a day to lure our kids into an addiction that can cut their lives short. Kick Butts Day is an opportunity for our kids to hear the truth about tobacco and make a personal pledge to say ‘yes’ to their health by saying ‘no’ to tobacco.”
Kick Butts Day is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation. The first Kick Butts Day was held in 1996.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.