Friday, February 27, 2015

Jefferson County Youth Break Up with Nic O. Tine and Prepare to Kick “Butts”

“You are too clingy. You smell bad. You make me look crusty, and that is not okay.” Those are only a few of the many sentiments expressed by Jefferson County high school students as they wrote break up and rejection letters to “Nic O. Tine,” a fictional character representing all tobacco products. This interactive student-led activity helped kick off Jefferson County Public Health’s new tobacco prevention campaign called “Kiss of Death.”

Tobacco use continues to plague our youth. According to the Surgeon General, nearly 9 out of 10 people who smoke, start by age 18, and 99% start before the age of 26. Most recently, electronic smoking devices (ESDs) have been increasing in popularity at alarming rates. The CDC states that between 2011 and 2012, overall youth e-cigarette use more than doubled, and in 2013, more than a quarter million (three times the amount in 2011) middle and high school students who had never smoked regular cigarettes had used e-cigarettes. As ESD manufacturers and retailers misrepresent their products, young people are perceiving these products as a safe way to use nicotine or marijuana by young people. The Kiss of Death campaign intends to illuminate the risks of any type of nicotine addiction, including addiction caused by use of ESDs.

Prior to the campaign kick-off, during the weeks approaching Valentine’s Day, Breathe Easy (BE) Team members posted flyers around their schools reminding their peers that tobacco contains over 4,000 chemicals, including arsenic and formaldehyde, which are found in rat poison and the fluid used to preserve dead people, respectively.

Although love was in the air as Valentine’s Day approached, over 200 high school students wrote break up or rejection letters to “Nic.” Serious or funny, sad or rhymed, the letters provided a means to express their discontent with unhealthy, abusive, and dangerous relationships with tobacco. One student wrote, “I can’t breathe when I am around you,” and another said, “You cost too much money.” The BE Teams helped with organizing and facilitating this activity during their schools’ lunch hour in order to educate, involve, and inspire their peers.

BE Teams are youth clubs working on tobacco prevention efforts in their schools and communities. Supported by their high schools and Jefferson County Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative, BE Teams educate community members about the problem of tobacco and advocate for sustainable solutions, including policy change.

Kiss of Death campaign events will help the BE Teams gain momentum for National Kick Butts Day on March 18, 2015. Kick Butts Day is an annual day of activism empowering youth in local communities to “stand out, speak up, and seize control” against tobacco use and the targeting of youth by tobacco companies. To honor this national day of activism, Jefferson County youth are hoping to speak in front of their local city councils to provide a youth perspective on the tobacco epidemic and present potential local best practice solutions. Youth will also be involved in cigarette butt pick-up activities to clean up public spaces of harmful cigarette litter. With nearly $8.5 billion dollars devoted to advertising and price discounts, the tobacco industry still heavily targets youth. In the words of one student rejecting tobacco and the industry’s tactics, “There is someone else, his name is responsibility.”

Helpful Resources:
  • Learn more about youth tobacco prevention
  • To learn more about Kick Butts Day and to get ideas about encouraging youth to speak up, visit
  • Explore helpful fact sheets from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids about the tobacco industry marketing to kids. 
  • If you or someone you know needs help with breaking up with “Nic O. Tine.” consider some of the following FREE resources: 
    • For telephone support, coaching and resources to help you or a loved one become tobacco-free; call the Colorado QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The QuitLine also offers web-based support at This free service provides information and tools to develop your own personal plan for quitting. 
    • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offers, an online web hub that connects visitors to a variety of resources and topics including cessation services and information on preventing secondhand smoke exposure and youth tobacco use. 
    • COQuitMobile is a free text-based program that places you on the path to a life free from tobacco. 
    • Attend a free tobacco cessation group hosted by Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge on Tuesdays at 12:00 p.m. This is a six week drop-in group that provides adults who want to quit smoking with tools and support to achieve their goals. (You do not need to attend all six weeks in order to participate.) 
    • You may also visit the Thinking of Quitting page on the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Website for a list of additional resources and videos that will encourage and help you to quit.
To get involved in local tobacco prevention efforts, visit, email or call 303-275-7555.

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