TCHS Students Sign Pledge to Reject Tobacco, Nicotine Products

Trenton, NJ — Trenton students today joined Harlem Globetrotter La’Keisha Sutton and youth activists across the country pledging to reject tobacco and nicotine products and become the first generation to go tobacco-free, during a celebration of national Kick Butts Day hosted by the Trenton Health Team.

Dozens of Trenton Central High School students signed a banner adding their names to a pledge to reject tobacco and nicotine products. Trenton Health Team staff displayed a healthy and non-healthy lungs demo so teens could see how tobacco use affects health.

Trenton Health Team members discussed the environmental damage related to tobacco and nicotine products. Cigarette butts are toxic–the most littered item globally –and poison aquatic ecosystems. Efforts to recycle cigarette butts are expensive and collecting the remnants can pose health risks, said Elena Cromeyer, project director for THT’s Transforming Communities Initiative.

“The public health community has made considerable advances to reduce the incidence of smoking cigarettes over the past several decades. Despite these gains, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the US, underscoring the need for increased efforts,” Ms. Cromeyer said.

“Kick Butts Day is a reminder that we need to strengthen partnerships among tobacco control, population health and environmentalists,” she added. “We call on policymakers to require tobacco companies to assume more responsibility for cigarette butt waste.”

While cigarette smoking among high school students nationwide has fallen to 8.1 percent, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by an alarming 78 percent in 2018 alone – to 20.8 percent of the student population–more than 3.6 million middle and high school students. In New Jersey, 9.6 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, while 4.7 percent smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 11,800 lives in New Jersey and costs the state over $4 billion in health care bills each year.

In Trenton, the tobacco products of choice are hookahs and mini-cigars, which are far less expensive options than cigarettes or electronic vapor products, based on a 2018 survey of 3,200 middle and high school students.
More than 9 percent of students ages 12-19 participating in the 2018 survey reported using tobacco or nicotine in the previous 30 days. Of those, more than 5 percent reported using hookahs and nearly 5 percent reported smoking cigars in the previous 30 days, compared to 1.5 percent smoking cigarettes and less than 4 percent using electronic vapor products.

Marc Freeman, Student Assistance Coordinator-Trenton Central High School, is glad to see the problem of smoking and tobacco use among teenagers capturing the attention of healthcare and public health professionals, school administrators and educators.

“Without prevention and intervention activities the number of students who smoke and use vaping products will continue to rise,” Mr. Freeman said. “Kick Butts Day at Trenton Central High School is designed to make students aware of the harmful effects of smoking and encourage them to stand up and speak out against tobacco companies.”

On Kick Butts Day, youth and health advocates are urging strong action to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic. In particular, they are calling on the Food and Drug Administration, states and cities to ban all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes in flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear and mango that tempt kids. Other effective strategies to reduce youth tobacco use include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, well-funded tobacco prevention programs and laws raising the tobacco sale age to 21– which New Jersey already adopted.

This event is part of Trenton Health Team’s partnership with Trinity Health to deliver the Transforming Communities Initiative. Transforming Communities Initiative (TCI) is a multi- million dollar, five-year population health effort funded by Trinity Health to address policy, systems, environmental (PSE) change and social determinants of health.