FORT LEE, Va. (April 20, 2017) -- Many chronic diseases and medical conditions that affect Americans are preventable. Tobacco use continues to be the unnecessary cause of death and disease in the U.S. The burden of tobacco affects a disproportionate number of military families because the use is high among service members.

This means children who are exposed to harmful chemicals also may be influenced by behavior that will likely determine their future decisions about tobacco use. Parents can play a significant role in preventing their children from using tobacco, especially smoking.

Kick Butts Day, observed in March, is a national day of activism that empowers young people to take a stand and speak out about the impact of tobacco use among children. It was originally organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in 1996. Each year since that time, teachers, leaders and health advocates organize events to:

• Raise awareness of the problem of tobacco use in their community;

• Encourage youth to reject deceptive marketing by tobacco companies and stay tobacco-free; and

• Urge officials and the community to take action to protect kids from using tobacco products.

Millions of children are being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Secondhand smoke can be especially harmful to infants and toddlers because their lungs are still developing. While some parents smoke outside the home or refrain from smoking in their vehicles, there is still exposure risk for children of parents who smoke.

According to research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, thirdhand smoke also is harmful. Thirdhand smoke is a left-behind residue with harmful toxins remaining on surfaces in places where people have previously smoked. Children who breathe secondhand smoke will experience more:

• Ear infections

• Coughs

• Respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia

• Tooth decay

• Severe asthma attacks

• Incidents of sudden infant death syndrome

KAHC Kick Butts Day 2017 officially launched youth tobacco use prevention programs on the installation. In addition, it set the stage for future prevention initiatives including healthy nutrition, increasing physical activity and improving sleep. It was planned and spearheaded by the Army Public Health Nursing Section in partnership with affiliates on the installation and in the surrounding communities. Community engagement and empowerment is critically important to the success of prevention and health promotion programs. The need to reach people where they live, work and play is crucial!

Capt. Jasmin A. Gregory, chief, APHN Section, is spearheading the campaign. She said, "According to the CDC, each day, about 2,500 kids in the U.S. try their first cigarette; and another 400 additional kids under 18 years of age become new regular, daily smokers" That's more than 150,000 new underage daily smokers in this country each year.

Prevention is the key. It is vital we start having these conversations with our children, so they truly understand the dangers of tobacco use, Gregory emphasized.

Approximately 100 children and Child and Youth Services staff joined the APHNs for activities at CYS facilities March 15. Guests included Col. Adam W. Butler, garrison commander, and Lt. Col. Stacey S. Freeman, KAHC deputy commander for health readiness, who captured the imaginations of the kids with storytelling.

"Youth tobacco prevention programs such as the Kick Butts Campaign are a creative and fun teaching method," she said. "It not only educates youth on the negative impact smoking has on their health, but also teaches them different methods for saying no to smoking and provides other alternatives and activities that will result in a positive outcome for their overall health and wellness."

Tobacco use prevention events will continue through May. Visit the Kenner APHN Section website for details and a schedule of upcoming community events. Join the APHN section in its movement to create the healthiest nation in one generation here on Fort Lee.

For more information, call (804) 734-9304 or visit