Middle school students in Wausau are leading the charge to make sure other kids don't start smoking. Students at John Muir Middle School celebrated the Great American Smoke Out Day on Thursday. According to the American Cancer Society's website the Great American Smoke-out Day started in the 1970's to encourage adults to stop smoking.
The activities were created by a group called Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU). It's is an after school club for kids at Wausau Area middle and high Schools. Students quizzed their peers and gave them information about the dangers of smoking.
Solomon King, is an eighth grader at John Muir Middle School. He says he's been apart of the group for two years. "I joined TATU because my mom quit smoking , after that she really got better, I wanted to learn about smoking and helping others quit," King says.
According to the 2006 Burden of Tobacco Report eight percent of middle school children in Marathon County Smoke. Nicole Linnell, also an eighth grader at John Muir Middle School, says she joined the group to be a role model for her friends. "I have a friend that smokes ... and even if I see her smoking on the street I just grab it, and throw it to the floor, it the easiest thing to do for a friend," Linnell says.
Marathon County Health Department Officials say they are also concerned about the number of children smoking. "80% of kids who smoke started smoking before they turned eighteen," says Amanda Drake Health Educator Marathon County Health Department.
To combat that problem they are continuing their effort to check on local tobacco retailers. "We've seen more retailers selling to minors," Drake says. Of all the stores in Marathon County selling tobacco products, 83% are asking for identification and are not selling tobacco products to minors. That average is down from 90-92% just a few years ago, says Drake.
"Our ultimate goal is 100% compliance... we don't want anyone selling tobacco products to minors,"says Drake.