In late-May, 150 teens from across Rhode Island marched on the State House to call on leaders to increase the sale age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The event was held in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day. The teens were dressed as zombies and used their creativity to show how tobacco use can disfigure and kill. In addition to talking about #Tobacco21RI, the teens asked lawmakers to take additional steps to help prevent tobacco-related disease and deaths.
The American Heart Association is proud to lead #Tobacco21RI efforts in collaboration with our partner organizations. Unfortunately our state bill did not move this year, but the AHA is actively supporting local policy initiatives in communities across Rhode Island to raise the minimum legal sale age to 21. It is our hope that local efforts will help build momentum for the passage of state legislation in 2018.
Below are excerpts from a RI Department of Health press release on the Zombie March:
"I commend every one of these teenagers for stepping up and fighting back as big tobacco searches for its next generation of victims," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). "We need to follow their lead and do everything we can to prevent youth tobacco use, with a particular focus on the lower-income communities in Rhode Island where companies continue to push their shameless marketing tactics most aggressively."
"We're thankful to live in a community that stands up to the tobacco industry that preys on kids and teens and made 21 the legal purchase age to tackle the root causes of deadly tobacco and nicotine addiction head-on," said Ronny Jimenez-Severino, 19, of Central Falls, who attended today's event. "Putting a healthy distance between tobacco and teens is the best way to ultimately stop tobacco products from killing more people. Nine out of ten adult smokers first light up as a kid or teen. If the tobacco industry isn't stopped from targeting us, roughly 5.6 million more kids and teens alive today in the United States will one day die from smoking—with 16,000 from Rhode Island."
For more photos see the Tobacco Free RI Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TobaccoFreeRI/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1541906062507998