Wednesday, February 27, 2008

High schoolers kick butts at the Capitol

As I sit here contemplating the lead to my blog post, the faint smell of tobacco smoke lingers in my memory. While sipping on a hot cup of green tea, my mind scans a mental list of Capitol smokers. Hmm. Who can I solicit a cigarette from?

Yes. I'm a sometimes-if-I-cave-or-drink-a-beer-or-hang-out-with-smokers smoker. And I'm not very proud of it. I thought about that today while taking pictures of this year's Kick Butts Day event at the Capitol. More than 150 kids from high schools across the State visited their lawmakers' offices advocating for a smoke-free Hawaii and asked legislators "to be true to their word to protect the smoke-free law and tobacco prevention programs statewide."

Amidst a sea of teenagers in red, I felt guilty for being there. Was the scarlet letter of second-hand smoke seething on my forehead? Should I stand up and say, "Hi, my name is Thelma and I'm addicted to tobacco?"

Don't worry. I didn't.

I did, however, question whether I would have had a smoking habit if our legislators instituted laws for a tobacco-free Hawaii when I was in high school nine years ago. Would have all the fuss around anti-smoking laws made me more unlikely to start? Would have having less explicit smokers around the corner stopped me from joining the circle of cigarette-puffing friends?

I don't have the answer to that, but at least our youth today are more aware of the issues and how they can influence the direction of these issues by lobbying our lawmakers.

High school students attended youth advocacy training, presented by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, before lobbying at the Capitol. Their talking points focused on tobacco companies targeting youth through marketing tactics such as flavored tobacco, products for women and girls, unproven health claims and smokeless products.

I yielded not to my demons after all this afternoon because of a comment from Kapua Adolpho, 16, a junior from Molokai High.

"I would encourage them [smokers] to try to quit," she said. "It's affecting them in a negative way and also affecting the people around them."

Now only if she could encourage me everyday. Sigh.

Photo (top) L-R: Deborah Zysman, Director coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Rep. Josh Green (D), Rep. Tom Brower (D), Rep. John Mizuno (D), Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R).

Photo (bottom): Kapua Adolpho, 16, takes a break from visiting the offices of lawmakers, urging them to protect the smoke-free law.


Anonymous said...

The legislature has proposed banning aspartame and banning high caliber rifles, neither of which have killed one person in this state. Why not a ban on cigarettes?

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's practical to compare the possible dangers of caliber rifles to aspartame or cigarettes. People can choose whether to drink a diet soda or light up, they can't choose having a bullet accidentally pierce their heart.

Anonymous said...

or intentionally...

Anonymous said...

I can't help but believe the credibility of this event is somehow diminished by the presence of people with party hats on their heads. Well, I guess if you can't smoke, you've got to catch your jollies somehow.

Thelma said...

To anonymous at 10:06: They're 15-and 16-year-olds trying to stir up energy for a good cause. I say let them wear their party hats...and ninja costumes (not pictured, yet they were there), if that's what it takes to get them hyped up about advocating for what they believe in.

Anonymous said...

No harm intended in my earlier comment, just trying to smoke out some humor. Didn't expect to light up any controversy. Next time, I'll filter my thoughts.


Thelma said...

No worries. It's all ashes.

Anonymous said...

Probably give them off from school and give 'em gifts and stuff. These misinformed teens are cheap lobbying tools for the professional lobbyists raking money off tax dollars and a lawsuit.
Sad to say, they don't take them to see the small corner bars that have to let folks smoke every night or go outta business. :(

Anonymous said...

This same group "REAL" has a website that links to its' poster child members drinking underage, being lewd in public,and public use of profanity. Who knows what else they do.

You can be a piece of crap as a person as long as you don't smoke and cause the leadership of "REAL" to cash in on their share of the tobacco settlement and/or tax dollars that they pocket and to have kids run around acting like fools a few times a year.